Nationalism’s ‘crise de foie’: most Catholics prefer the United Kingdom…

No surprise to most long term readers but it seems that those looking towards sectarian divide to re-unite the island of Ireland might be looking in the wrong direction:

The (Life and Times) survey, which was conducted between October and December last year, found just 33% of Catholics wanted Irish unity on the long term. More than half of Catholics said they would prefer to stay in the UK, a view shared by 90% of Protestants.

I can’t access the historic data sets, but one detail we included in our 2003 study of the future of Unionism included this view of the other side of the equation from the same survey twelve years ago:

Protestants find the principle of consent more difficult to accept, with 29% finding the idea that the majority of people in Northern Ireland would ever vote for a united Ireland ‘almost impossible to accept.’ Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey 1999, Queen’s University Belfast and University of Ulster.

It may be that some of the recent easement in Unionist attitudes towards the current settlement relates to the fact that, currently, most Catholics and Nationalists are drifting towards a similar (if much more purely pragmatic) view on the constitutional arrangements as themselves.

Why then, do most nationalist politicos seem to be so out of step with their electorate? Is that they have imbibed too much high octane, Peace Process™ Koolaid? Or, indeed, are they out step at all? I think we should be told!

Adds: Thanks to PaulT for this chart which graphs attitudes over time

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  • perseus

    joe that’s all very well,
    but my koolaid isn’t giving me the hit it used to anymore.
    should I increase the strength, or stop drinking altogether?

  • occupiedsixer

    These surveys cannot give a true reflection of the feeling for a united Ireland for many reasons already mentioned such as question wording, sample size and the penchant to tell lies just for the sake of it when you know that the answers dont really matter. Which is why I dont give much heed to it.

    When faced with an actual vote on a). United Ireland
    or b). Remain as part of the UK
    the result, at the minute, will be very similar to the nationalist vs. unionist breakdown of the local elections. My school friends are all Catholic due to the nature of education in Northern Ireland and even though many are not die hard chucks they would still vote for a united ireland purely because, rightly or wrongly, when taught the history of this place and the island as a whole it is seen as settling an old wrong.
    However the degree of unity is probably where some catholics will disagree, me I’d like to see a full united 32 county republic, others a federal ireland etc. and some would be happy with an all ireland soccer team!

  • nightrider

    Rory McIroy – a Catholic – seems to have no problem with a British or Northern Irish identity. His website has the Northern Ireland flag featured quite prominently.
    Perhaps he symbolises how many young Catholics just accept the status quo.
    It’s an accident of birth where you happen to be born.
    I wonder how a proud Irishman like Andy Townsend feels about this issue.

  • orly

    Suggest anyone who votes SF takes a listen on iplayer to wee Barry and his implosion on Talkback and get a flavour of the lunacy they put their X or 1 to.

  • Meh

    Well then, lets have a referendum & give the next disenfranchised generation a say in a “major” political decision, like mine had with the GF/B agreement.

    Loyalists clearly have nothing to fear, furry faced Dissidents won’t be able to make statements on behalf of “the Irish” nation at rising commerations in rainy, wind swept graveyards. win/win

  • DC

    I wouldn’t read too much into it – given the economic circumstances of today’s Ireland.

    Hands up who wants to join a technically bankrupt country?!

    Nah, not in this decade. Maybe next?

  • Comrade Stalin


    That assumes that every party is a one trick pony.

    You mean they’re not ?

    It’s not as though every vote for a political party is also your proxy vote in the border poll.

    It’s certainly seen as such by the parties themselves.

  • Reader

    Reader: It’s not as though every vote for a political party is also your proxy vote in the border poll.
    Comrade Stalin: It’s certainly seen as such by the parties themselves.
    1) I concede that’s one of the reasons I have never voted for, or transferred to, a nationalist party.
    2) So, did your party take my 1st Pref for Anne Wilson as an indication that I wouldn’t vote to stay in the Union? Wrong!

  • Sam Maguire


    I don’t imagine Rory McIlroy, a Catholic from North Down who went to one of the top Rugby playing state schools in the North, would be indicative of the vast majority of the 18-24 catholic population which, apparently, sees itself as Northern Irish according to L&T.

    Indeed, I’m not that far out of that demographic (at least in my head) and there’s not one of the young fellas from my area that would be anything but staunch ROI supporters when it comes to soccer. The only one that would admit to having any interest in Northern Ireland actually played for them at schoolboy level or u17 but he still supports the ROI. Something similar to a current NI international that would fall into the same demographic grouping and gave a similar utterance not that long ago and was widely critised for it by NI fans on twitter.

  • ayeYerMa

    Those continuing to rubbish such surveys need to remember that this is not a one-off survey and the trend has been going this way for years.

    You can read a lot more from graphs than just plain numbers. Here is a collection of public domain graphs summarising some of the NILT questions over the years:

  • nightrider

    Sam Maguire
    I’m not too sure what point you’re trying to make.
    Rory McIroy went to a state school, so what? Maybe Andy Townsend went to a state school in the Republic, big deal.
    Or is it because he (Rory) is from North Down?
    Would it be fair to say most Catholics from South Armagh would be for a UI, while those from more affluent areas (North Down/South Belfast etc) would support the union?

  • ayeYerMa

    PaddyReilly, your claims that this survey is “just of South Belfast” is bunk. Read this in-depth document on the sampling methods used:

    They use “a systematic random sample of addresses
    selected from the Land and Property Services Agency list of private addresses.”

  • PaddyReilly

    And workmen never bunk off, do they? I wonder how much their pollsters are paid per hour for their diligence and honesty.

    As I recall it was the easiest job to get in the Job Centre.

  • PaddyReilly

    But the full answer is: I take your point and we must investigate this trend further.

    A full questionnaire asking if Ireland should have a single football team, flag, NHS, police force, President, parliament, level of corporation tax, currency, etc, etc, to be distributed with every electoral paper, Westminster, European or Stormont. The sort of unity we want, when we want it.

    After a decade or so, when it becomes obvious that no-one in Ulster, Protestant, Catholic or Hindu, is interested in any sort of unity, the practise can be abandoned.

  • Light23

    It’s quite possible that political normalization has changed some people’s opinion in favour of the current arrangement.

    It’s also interesting that current support for a UI is not that much more than the support for Sinn Fein during the IRA’s campaign. Are we getting down to the last remaining hardcore republicans, with the rest of the population realising the benefits the UK brings?

  • Sam Maguire

    You tried to suggest (judging by your original comment) that because Rory has no problem with his Britishness that he is perhaps representative of all young catholics.
    I would retort that someone who assimilated into a rugby playing state school is less likely to be a cultural nationalist than someone who went to Rathmore or the Red High in Downpatrick. To suggest that because he is a young catholic that he symbolises or represents that demographic is inherently flawed.

    ayeYerMa: They do indeed state that, but at no point do they give a breakdown by constituency or district council. Why not give a proper breakdown of areas surveyed – If over 75% of the Nationalist respondents came from West Belfast/West Tyrone/ Mid Ulster/ Fermanagh South Tyrone/ Newry Armagh/ South Down and Foyle then you’d have a real story. Personally I’ll believe that L&T is East of the Bann/Belfast centric until they give me specific numbers rather than talk in generalities.

  • Crow

    I fully suspect that if 95 years ago the Life and Times had performed a similar survey and their findings were published on Easter Sunday, April 23 1916, the results and reaction would probably been similar. The chattering classes (that’s us – they didn’t have blogs) would have nodded and shaken their heads accordingly. Yet within two weeks things had changed utterly. The moral of story, “its events dear boy, events” that change opinion and history.

  • dwatch

    By JEROME REILLYSunday June 19 2011
    A majority of Catholics in the North would now prefer to stay part of Britain rather than become part of a broke republic.

  • There are a lot of claims on this thread that the poll is inaccurate. The Belfast Telegraph says

    “In the past Ark has said it believes that people surveyed have also been reluctant to give entirely accurate information on issues like income, voting intentions or their sexual orientation.”

    So should the Nationalist parties ignore the poll and pretend that there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about?

    I think that if I was Mr. Adams, I might be concerned about it. You might be able to challenge the accuracy of data in any particular year but it is much harder to argue with trends. If demography was supposed to help the nationalists, the trends should have been in their favour, not against.

    The data also shows a trend away from communalism. That spells a kind of danger for the four largest political parties – perhaps more so the UUP and the SDLP and a corresponding opportunity for the Alliance Party.

  • dwatch

    Does anyone in their right mind believe Edna kenny or the irish Government will take any advice from Mr Adams the man who was never a member of the IRA?

    ‘Adams urges plan for Irish unity’

  • Comrade Stalin


    2) So, did your party take my 1st Pref for Anne Wilson as an indication that I wouldn’t vote to stay in the Union? Wrong!

    Alliance doesn’t campaign on the constitutional position and does not have a formal policy position on it. So anyone interpreting your vote in such a way would indeed be wrong.

  • PaddyReilly

    So should the Nationalist parties ignore the poll and pretend that there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about?

    Obviously not. But there are just a few tiny formalities that need to be straightened out first. Like we are governed by universal suffrage and secret ballot. So the obvious way forwards is to hand out border polls with every election, for the next few years. There has to be one in 2014, for starters.

    Simple questions. Should Ireland have single president, parliament, police force, national health service, customs service, civil service, level of corporation tax, currency, team in sporting events, flag, etc, etc.

    Unionists have nothing to be concerned for as the demand is obviously so low.

  • demeceface

    There is one very evident fact that is being ignored here,whether the poll is reflective of unionist/nationalist persuasion or not.The very simple fact that the argument for or against constitutional change is now open to reason and not just history.The idea that catholics may support a continuation of the status quo for simple everyday effect and/or weight of my pocket logic suggests that they are ahead of unionists in the GFA spread.But also confirms a huge republican victory( and that is not the word another should use) in that we are getting to the point where unionists also can be convinced of an united Ireland by means of economics and common sense.This is the no mans land argument and has nothing to do with the koolaid or foolaid but simply that now a unionist ( and they do it more and more) can challenge someone from dublin about what it means to be Irish.We’re on it now baby!!

  • Reader

    PaddyReilly: So the obvious way forwards is to hand out border polls with every election, for the next few years. There has to be one in 2014, for starters.
    No – the process is as follows:
    “…the Secretary of State shall exercise the power under paragraph 1 if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.”
    “The Secretary of State shall not make an order under paragraph 1 earlier than seven years after the holding of a previous poll under this Schedule.”

  • JR

    As a matter of interest are any of the Unionist posters out there in Slugger land Catholic? Or Nationalists Protestant? I would be interested how many of each we have. According to this survey the Catholic Unionists should be in the Majority and the Protestant unionists should be like hens teeth. Does anyone want to out themselves?

  • vanhelsing

    Just listened to Barry McIlDuff on ‘talk back’ regarding his issue. Honestly if you’ve never listened to it – priceless.

    ‘Talk back speed dial’ – he even manages to insults one of his own voters:)

  • vanhelsing

    Whatever you do – listen to all the broadcast – it actually moves from a boating accident to a train wreck. Get him on again Wendy – not only does he have little command of figures but he was just plain insulting. Great craic…

    He adds up the votes for SF and the SDLP [assumes all of them would vote for a UI]. Doesn’t even remember to divide by 2 [those who didn’t vote] – oops can’t make that assumption barry…

    Super 🙂

  • PaddyReilly

    the Secretary of State shall exercise the power under paragraph 1 if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting

    And how would the Secretary of State form accurate opinions as to what a majority of those voting would be likely to do unless he has accurate and recent data from the whole of the electorate as to what they think?

    There is nothing in the GFA which forbids the taking of unification opinion polls, and even if there were, the electorate of 2014+ cannot be bound by the decisions made by the electorate of 1998, unless they want to be.

  • Reader

    PaddyReilly: And how would the Secretary of State form accurate opinions as to what a majority of those voting would be likely to do unless he has accurate and recent data from the whole of the electorate as to what they think?
    The usual guess is that he will automatically cave in if there are more Nationalists elected to Stormont than Unionists, and the Nationalist parties announce they are ready to have a go.
    PaddyReilly: There is nothing in the GFA which forbids the taking of unification opinion polls, and even if there were, the electorate of 2014+ cannot be bound by the decisions made by the electorate of 1998, unless they want to be.
    1) Actually, the GFA says when and how often it might happen.
    2) The electorate *could* vote for parties that want to renegotiate the deal. However, the TUV vote has been derisory, and the existing nationalist parties don’t seem to have adopted your policy. You might have to form your own party.

  • PaddyReilly

    the existing nationalist parties don’t seem to have adopted your policy.

    Not at all. Our great and wonderful leader, Martin McGuinness, has already started talking about the possibility of border polls.

    I can’t see what your objections is. After all, you know such surveys would all produce a negative reaction, and making them universally available would increase their persuasiveness.

  • JR

    If that poll is to be believed then there should be dozens of commenters on this site who are catholic and Unionist. Does anyone want to put themselves in this bracket? Is there anyone out there who is Catholic that would have described them self as a Nationalist five years ago who would now consider himself Unionist?

    Maybe mick could give us some idea as to how many people view this page and how many of those describe themselves as catholic unionists. According to the survey it should be about 1 in 5.

  • PaddyReilly

    Actually, the GFA says when and how often it might happen.

    I think I see where your confusion is. I am talking about a unification opinion poll, which would be issued with voting papers at every election. No different from the one under discussion, except that it would be universally available, government administered and subject to the secret ballot.

    It would not be binding, but if it returned the same result more than once, the Government would be under pressure to implement it.

    The border poll in the Agreement would follow from this.

    Obviously if the majority of the day was unhappy with the septennial rule, it could be changed, particularly if the vote was close.

  • Harry Flashman

    I’ll take you up on that JR. I come from a Catholic background, if by that you mean Catholic parents and grandparents loosely self described as nationalists, I attended Mass in my youth and went to Catholic schools. I wouldn’t regard myself as a Catholic in any meaningful way now however.

    I love Ireland, I am proud of my Irish heritage but if asked to vote in a “border poll” (I don’t live in Ireland now I should point out) I would be happy enough for Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK.

    A pretty sizable proportion of my friends and colleagues would be in the same position. They follow Irish sporting teams in international competitions, would consider themselves Irish (though most don’t carry Irish passports interestingly enough) but just aren’t that hung up on the whole Irish unity or death thing.

    Growing up in a place that has been governed from London for over two hundred years, where British law, cultural influences, politics, economic systems, sports and media predominate such a scenario is hardly surprising.

    You might regard such people as deracinated, west Brit sleeveens but we can only address the world as we find it not as we would like it to be.

  • I believe this year is the first in which this Survey has generated so much news.

    People will see that it represents good propaganda for those who want the union to remain.

    If there was a propensity amongst nationalists to lie about their preferences in the past, surely the publicity will ensure that they are less likely to do so in the future?

    Perhaps future surveys will be even more interesting?

  • Starviking

    Catholic and Unionist, though for the past 25-odd years. Have a lot of friends who are of the same inclination.

  • dwatch

    Just listened to Barry McIlDuff on ‘talk back’ regarding his issue. Honestly if you’ve never listened to it – priceless.

    Barry is the greatest jester that SF have.

  • JR

    “You might regard such people as deracinated, west Brit sleeveens.”

    On the contary, I regard you as I would anyone who wants the best for their country. I admire anyone who makes up their own mind. And I admire those who can change their mind even more.

  • PaulT

    wow,140 posts and still no-one has actually looked at results, TBF Micks OP is a million miles of the mark, but its a lame excuse for people not to be able to read simple graphs.

    Even more dire is that no-one can actually even analyse the wrong conclusions they are arriving at.

    How many posts before the party slogans die out and a proper thread starts happening?

  • PaulT

    Here’s a clue kiddies (and esp Mick)

    Mick, perhaps you’d like to explain what you think a ‘drift’ is?

    is a jump off almost 20% in favour of the UK really a drift Mick,

    I think more impartial pax might say its a kneejeck reaction to the banking crisis.

    Esp as it happened around 2007/2008,

    Thats the reason why anyone hoping for a UI should be popping the corks and feeling chuffed.

    I wonder if support for the union would be under 50% today if the banking crisis hadn’t happened, it certainly looks that way on the graph.

    I wonder how long before we reach that point again, regardless its great to see that people are now thinking with their heads and wallets and not their hearts.

    Unlikr this thread were none of the above are engaged!

  • Reader

    PaulT: I wonder if support for the union would be under 50% today if the banking crisis hadn’t happened, it certainly looks that way on the graph.
    Paul, you are missing the point – you don’t need Red to fall below 50% – you need it to fall below Green. There’s nothing remotely like that on the graph.

  • john

    Sorry Paul T Im being a bit slow today what is it your getting at I can only see a graph that show 16% in favour of reunification hardly pop corking time.
    The low % for a UI isnt a suprise though for a number of reasons.
    1 – People dont like change
    2 – Republics finances are a mess
    3 – No realistic unification option given

    The % in favour of UI wil greatly increase when
    1 – There is a majority of nationalist seats in Stormont (several years away yet)
    2 – Republics economy is on the up again (again several years away yet)
    3 – A realistic unification proposal is outlined (lets be honest any future united Ireland will retain an autonomous north – an overnight change from London/Belfast to Dublin is never going to happen.

  • Henry94

    There is a problem with the united Ireland proposition and it is something that we will have to address irrespective of the validity of the poll. If a referendum is called the choice will be between a state that is subsidisied from London or one that is paying a subsidy to the French and German banks to cover their losses from property speculation.

    You would want to be very hard line indeed to vote your children into debt slavery. In fact you might be more likely to get a majority in the other three counties in Ulster to go the other way when this crisis is played out.

    The reality now is that if a united Ireland is your game then you have to start with the south and not the north.We’re about as attractive as Hugh Hefner minus his money.

    As Harry Flashman pointed out an Irish cultural identity does not have to mean political union and as the north gets more open to Irishness the sense of living under British domination fades.

    Nationalists and republicans have some thinking to do.

  • PaulT

    John, Reader etc

    Its events dear boy, events.

    From the OP onwards the survey is been discussed in us and them boxes.

    The graphs are full of peaks and troughs, people are reacting to real events in their answers.

    Otherwise, the lines would be flat(ish) for example.

    “I can only see a graph that show 16% ”

    Your 100% right John, but I see that figure swinging around the place, I don’t care if its up or down, I’m happy because its not a tribal thing anymore.

    Furthermore, to borrow a quote, those in favour of a UI only need to be ‘lucky’ in one border poll, unionism needs to be lucky in every one.

    Wonder what the Irish economy will be like in 2016, or 2017 or …

  • john

    ‘Furthermore, to borrow a quote, those in favour of a UI only need to be ‘lucky’ in one border poll, unionism needs to be lucky in every one’

    Lol you do realise what will happen if a referendum for a united ireland is passed with a tight majority then it will turn into best of 3,5,7 and so on. It will become the next Quebec with its neverendum

  • Mrs jones

    john,Brendán ó Beacháin once said that if it rained soup the Irish would come out with forks.’Luck?’,Rory Mc aside isn’t swinging ‘our’ way.I know the country is ‘suffering’ at the moment with the arrival of the New Recession,and i don’t mean to sound overly pessimistic,but the sinn fein economic strategy of ‘hit n hope’ is doomed.Even a ‘fool’ like me can see that.The SDLP/SF/Fianna fail axis have a lot to answer for.If i was a northern republican i’d be fighting for the union at this stage.’Unionism needs to be lucky all the time’.True.But guess what a chara,they were blessed with luck in the shape of Gerry and Martin.

    As Henry 94 points out Republicanism needs to start in the south.My local SF ‘elected rep’ is a good footie coach.
    Ask him who Wolfe Tone,Robert Emmet,Patrick Pearse,
    Liam Mellowes,Ernie O’Malley,Cathal Brugha or Sean Glynn were and he’ll probably ask you do you want a match against the Under 7’s.As Ceasar said-‘Give them gains and keep them Ignorant.’

  • Mick Fealty

    Paul T,

    What on earth are you talking about?


    You once said, not long after Slugger began that there’s a kind of destructiveness goes on when nationalists try to talk about its issues in front of unionists, and vice versa. That some things need just to be talked about amongst nationalists and some need to be talked about amongst unionists.

    It rang true to me then, and it clearly does now.

  • Henry94


    I had that very point in mind as I posted today. As Michael Corleone said to Fredo, never let anyone outside the family know what you’re thinking.

    It is easier to make a generic point about nationalism of course. If I had a criticism of Sinn Fein these days I don’t think this would be a place to make it.

  • dwatch

    The very need to “campaign to raise consciousness that a united Ireland not only makes “political, social and economic sense but that it is an achievable” only shows that SF have become complacent and took their electorate for granted (in wanting a UI) since the GFA in 1998.

    ‘United Ireland ‘front and centre’ of SF agenda’

  • Mick Fealty


    I get exactly where you are coming from on that. Might be time for an ‘intervention’.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Harry Flashman,

    I’m sure there’s plenty of Catholics with your mindset east of the Bann. Northern Ireland/Ulster is, after all, home to
    people who grow up there with the yellow number plates on the cars and red post boxes. Everyone loves home, whatever its faults and people don’t like home to change. The change a united Ireland might bring in the north frightens many people.

    The difference, however, between a culturally Irish ‘u’ unionist person like you and so many Protestant Unionists from the north is that in a border poll the emotional argument for a united Ireland could get to you and sway your vote. You admit you love Ireland, after all. The emotional argument clearly won’t get to nearly as many Protestant Unionists brought up seeing Catholic nationalist Ireland as, let’s face it, the enemy. To them a united Ireland whatever its merits means one thing and one thing only: defeat.

    So I still believe in a united Ireland vote where the Irish government and vast majority of Irish people are asking for a yes vote, a (former) Catholic northerner like you will have very conflicting emotions. And you may well still vote for continued partition – but emotionally for the yes campaigners your vote is there to be won a lot more than a Protestant Unionist from Ballymena or Larne.

    So while all the Catholic population of Northern Ireland are not guaranteed to vote for a United Ireland, they are certainly not irrationally hostile towards it like so many northern Protestants. Hence once the Catholic community is bigger than the Protestant community in Northern Ireland, an independent united Ireland is much more achieveable than it has ever been.

    But not guaranteed.

  • otto

    “irrationally hostile”

    Perhaps you could to work on your assignment of “irrationality” to people who might disagree with you before you expect them to change their minds.

    What are the top rational reasons for someone from Larne to replace a border with the republic seventy miles away with a border with Scotland on their doorstep?

  • Republic of Connaught


    Larne isn’t in any part of Scotland however close it might be across the sea. It’s on a little island surrounded by sea called Ireland just like Derry and Dublin and Cork and Galway. That it might be under the same political jurisdiction as the rest of the little island it resides on is not groundbreaking stuff. People in Larne cannot call themselves Scottish however close it is across the sea to Scotland. But they can call themselves Irish same as people in any other corner of Ireland no matter the distance. Geordies and Cockneys are not very alike either and there’s a lot more than 70 miles between them, but they’re all English nonetheless….

    In any case, Larne won’t have a choice about that border if Scotland decides to go independent. Because Scotland won’t be offering Larne to come under its jurisdiction. It’s not Scottish, after all.

  • PaulT

    Paul T,

    What on earth are you talking about?

    haha Mick, let me make it childlike and understandable for you.

    Go to the picture with the bright colours.

    Look (for example) at the years 2000 to 2001 and 2007 to 2008

    get someone good at maths to add and subtract the numbers for you.

    re-read your OP (not necessary, just punishment)

    try to think of reasons (events!!!) why the numbers jump up and down so much in a single year.

    Mick, to be honest can’t make it any simpler for you than that.

    However, even in the little bubble of Slugger, you must have heard of some events in 2008, anything Mick?

  • First I heard of nationalism having liver trouble, Mick. lol.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I wonder what the effect of a soft option for a UI would have. You can see on the graph the big leap that happened when the soft option was introduced for devolved government in the UK, 2006-2007.

    You could argue that it also conincides with the beginning of the banking crisis. I would guess its the question.

    This is why i think the question is so clearly loaded. You get a massive leap in support for the UK just because you introduce the soft option for the UK.

    It remains a non-sense poll with a ridiculous loaded question. There probably is NI Catholic support for the Union. I would have been surprised if support for a UNited Ireland was much above 30-35%. But until they ask a proper question, I’ll pay no attention to this nonsense poll

  • Harry Flashman

    “Harry Flashman,

    I’m sure there’s plenty of Catholics with your mindset east of the Bann. Northern Ireland/Ulster is, after all, home to…”

    I’m a Derryman born and bred, many relatives in the IRA, both the “old” and “new”, varieties. Nothing to do with yellow number plates or red postboxes just a plain old matter of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

    Northern Ireland now is a society where everyone to a greater or lesser extent gets a fair crack of the whip, my Irishness is recognised as legitimate, I recognise the Britishness of my fellow countrymen.

    The upheaval and trouble that would be entailed by a transfer of sovereignty would simply not be justified by any discernible, practical gain for me and people like me.

    You’re right; I’m not an upper case “Unionist”, I don’t raise my glass of sherry to the Queen during her Christmas Day speech, if a united Ireland was achieved I would be happy enough to get on with it.

    However right now I feel Northern Ireland is a comfortable enough place within the United Kingdom where it has resided for the past two centuries and whose culture has undoubtedly left a profound mark on me.

  • Will

    I just can’t understand the frenzied reaction by SF and some on Slugger to this survey. For what it’s worth and to counter the many posters’ recollections of how few Catholics they know who aren’t in favour of a UI, I know plenty of Catholics who would prefer, at this moment in time, to remain within the Union. The suggestion that the survey is a nonsense because of how few Catholics vote for Unionist parties demonstrates, in my opinion, a complete lack of understanding of the conflict here – a vote for the UUP/DUP is a lot more than just a vote in favour of maintaining the Union. This is in part a failing of the Unionist parties to properly advance a civic kind of Unionism but also a political reality of the divided society we live in.

    One thing I have found surprising is the lack of respect shown to the Nationalist electorate in these comment sections on Slugger and also from SF, why is it so surprising that a survey carried out today would show this sort of result? In my opinion, a pro-Union Nationalist is just that largely as a result of pragmatism. The economic mess in the South and perhaps a realisation that the South might not necessarily welcome NI with open arms is surely behind the pro-Union stance shown in the survey. Arguably, this is true “bread and butter politics” in action – British subsidy or bankrupt economy? Pure pragmatism, something which politicos on Slugger and elsewhere forget guides most of the electorate, especially in times of economic downturn.

    As an aside, although it may sound contradictory, I could envisage a great many of these “pragmatic” pro-Union Nationalists voting SF. That these Nationalists, who may accurately be reffered to as “cultural” Nationalists, can imagine a short term future within the UK could also be a result of devolution and the acceptance of their Irish identity within Northern Ireland. Who better then to protect this identity and protect their cultural values within the squeezed political space of NI than a party such as SF? As I said, it may sound contradictory given SF’s commitment to unification but as SF have increased their support base I think it’s time Barry McElduff etc accept that not all their voters will necessarily have the same hardline views on certain matters that they do

  • Mick Fealty


    Thanks for that. You need to be much more specific when you offer an analysis in a space where there are others who do not share your view.

    Now, I/we get your point.

    I don’t think anyone can deny the fact that the banking crisis has to have been a contributing factor in squeezing re-unification as a desirable outcome.

    But look at the dates for the shift (from majority pro UK to bigger majority pro UK)? Mid 2006 is still boom time in Ireland the west generally.

    So that cannot have been the key factor in the initial hardening of pro UK sentiment within both populations in Northern Ireland.

    Given that time frame it is much more likely that nationalists generally have increased confidence in the Belfast Agreement, and therefore in the devolved institutions of the UK.

    It *does not* mean they have abandoned their long term aspirations. It *does* mean they are much happier with the status quo (which just happens to be UK status).

    The ;drift’ mentioned is the apparent distance between public rhetoric and public perceptions. It’s as though this is some kind of surprise, when these majority UK figures have been consistently returned over the last ten/twelve years.

    Note: I *do* value diversity of opinion on this site above almost anything else, but enough of the insouciant lip already! Just put the work in!!

  • Lionel Hutz

    Mick, surely the fact that they changed the question just after 2006 would have had the biggest impact.

    After 2006, they divided up “remaining in the UK” to “remaining in uk with devolution” and “remaining in the UK with direct rule”. In doing so they have included a soft option with no corresponding soft option for a United Ireland.

  • Mick Fealty

    Again, I think I buy that as a factor. What order of magnitude is conjecture. What do others think?

  • Reader

    Mick Fealty: Again, I think I buy that as a factor.
    Also – Saint Andrews Agreement 2006.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Harry Flashman

    “You might regard such people as deracinated, west Brit sleeveens.”

    That’s a terrific turn of phrase. I’m going to use that one.

    It’s true that the country is coming down with deracinated, west Brit sleeveens.

    Though such people are nowhere near a majority, they dominate the south, and practically every major institution within it. Government, civil service, major political parties, universities, media (oh my God do they dominate the media). The one notable exception that comes to mind is which is why it’s so hated by the intelligentsia. Though even there, a toad like Sean Kelly was able to rise to the presidency.

    Henry is right: the next major battle for nationalism is in the south.

    “…deracinated, west Brit sleeveens.”

    That really is a cracker.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Should read:

    “The one notable exception that comes to mind is the GAA, which is why it’s so hated by the intelligentsia.”

  • gréagóir o frainclín

    Ah this survey is very understandable. Catholic/Nationalist folk are indeed better off economically within the UK . Sure is a United Ireland even worth the consideration now. The so called ‘Republican Party’ of Fianna Fail has safguarded NI’s Catholics future status by recklessly putting the economy of the Republic back to ground zero.

    So there will not be a United Ireland for many years, decades to come coz of the financial cost. Besides there is a difference in northern and southern folk. (I find that there is a general crankiness prevalent in northern folks character.)

    So Unionists should be elated and very happy indeed with the status of NI, so why not relax a bit more and be a bit more considerate for their Catholic neighbours. Be nice on The Twalfth!

    (Just to note, the Republic’s economy is not as bad as the media reports. There is still plenty of money in Eire folks piggy banks and pockets. AIB’s recent test is indeed testament to the economy’s robustness. )

  • Mick Fealty

    Is the GAA really hated by the intelligentsia Billy?