“One of the mantras of the peace process is that ‘dissident’ republicans have no support…”

The BBC has some details of a University of Liverpool survey – The ESRC Northern Ireland 2010 Westminster Election Survey – which asked some questions about peoples attitudes towards still-violent republican paramilitaries.

From the BBC report

Professor Tonge said the research also highlighted the difference in perception of the scale of the threat between the two communities.

“They were offered three options, major, minor or no threat. A majority of Protestants , 53 percent described the dissidents as a major threat,” he said.

“Whereas, only 17% of Catholics viewed dissidents as a major threat.

“I think that’s actually quite a disturbing statistic in some ways, because it does emphasis quite strong communal differences. Three times as many Protestants viewing dissidents as a major threat.

“When what is needed is to build confidence between the two communities, it’s statistics like that that can look fairly stark,” he added.

And Jon Tonge of Liverpool University has an article on the survey’s findings in the News Letter today

Asked whether they ‘had sympathy for the reasons why some republican groups (such as the Real and Continuity IRAs) continue to use violence’, a surprisingly high 8.2 per cent – that’s 14 per cent of those identifying as nationalists – said yes.

The groups had no support among unionists, and less than one per cent among respondents who identified neither unionist or nationalist.

Some 12.9 per cent of nationalists (7.8 per cent of the overall survey) claimed to ‘strongly like’ or ‘like’ Republican Sinn Fein while 7.5 per cent of nationalists (4.0 per cent of overall survey) strongly liked or liked 32 County Sovereignty Movement, associated with the CIRA and RIRA.

Eleven per cent of overall respondents believed the PSNI to be very similar to the old RUC.

Given the tendency of survey respondents to produce socially acceptable answers, these figures might be seen as disturbing.

The not-so-sneaking regarders are found in the most likely categories: they are predominantly male and young.

As a Guardian report based on the article notes

But Professor Jon Tonge of Liverpool University, in the Ulster Newsletter today, said: “One of the mantras of the peace process is that ‘dissident’ republicans have no support … yet the assumption that dissidents have no support has been precisely that – an assumption, untroubled by actual evidence either way.”

And, “No one in this small, enclosed biosphere ever told them this project was never going to work in the first place…”

Adds  Here are some interesting raw results from the summary findings [pdf file] – hopefully it’s understandable despite the formatting

Q15 And thinking about why some Republican groups used violence during the troubles, would you say that you have any sympathy with the reasons for the violence – even if you don’t condone the violence itself? Would you say you have?

Valid – Frequency Percent – Valid Percent – Cumulative Percent

A lot of sympathy 49 – 4.9 – 4.9 – 4.9

A little sympathy 42 – 4.2 – 4.2 – 9.1

No sympathy at all? 747 – 74.6 – 74.6 – 83.6

(Don’t Know) 55 – 5.5 – 5.5 – 89.1

(Refused / NA) 109 – 10.9 – 10.9 – 100.0

Total 1002 – 100.0 – 100.0

Q16 And thinking about why some Republican groups (such as the Real IRA and Continuity IRA and often called ‘dissident republicans’) continue to use violence, would you say that you have any sympathy with the reasons for the violence – even if you don’t [condone the violence itself? Would you say you have?]

Valid – Frequency Percent – Valid Percent – Cumulative Percent

A lot of sympathy 44 – 4.4 – 4.4 – 4.4

A little sympathy 38 – 3.8 – 3.8 – 8.2

No sympathy at all? 755 – 75.3 – 75.3 – 83.5

(Don’t Know) 56 – 5.6 – 5.6 – 89.1

(Refused / NA) 109 – 10.9 – 10.9 – 100.0

Total 1002 – 100.0 – 100.0