#IrelandsCall: So similar and yet north and south continue their long slow drift apart…

Here’s an initial collation of the slides from last night’s programme, taken from what RTE and BBC NI have shared on their websites, and a couple of screenshots I took at the time.

If you have any more do let me know and I will add them to a second iteration?

There’s lots of yummy data in the overall survey, not least the indications just how happy everyone seems to be both with their current lives and their future prospects (I’m sure they flashed that up on screen but I cannot find it on either site.

There is one legitimate with the findings. As Chris highlighted one in his post this morning, which is the data for Belfast. The un-grossed total for that section is just 198, so it is bound to be in error of upwards of +/- 10%.

But generally the survey is twice the sample size of normal polls, giving a robust reading for both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Constitutional statusWhat’s the interesting stuff? Well, devolution within the UK is popular both north and south. In the Republic it is just pipped by a UI in the short to medium term, but only by one per cent.

In Northern Ireland it accounts for by far the single most popular option, followed by direct rule (increasingly popular with a unionist electorate which is sensitive to the lack of outputs from Stormont), and a UI at 13%.

With all caveats about not reading from one pollster’s methodology to another duly lodged, it’s worth noting that this reads even more poorly against Spotlight’s Ipsos Mori polling from just over two years ago which registered 17%. However you cut it, that does not reflect well on the current leadership of Northern Irish Nationalism.

Constitutional status 2Intriguingly the breakdown in figures may give some indications for why SF’s recent attempt at a ‘count the Taigs‘ strategy in north Belfast failed.  Catholics seem to be much more committed to the institutions agreed to in the Belfast Agreement than the political leadership in Sinn Fein appear to be.

The intriguing thing though is the high level of satisfaction with life and future prospects on either side of the border. The abiding truth is that no one seems terribly upset and the prospect of the current constitutional status remaining in place for the foreseeable future.

satisfaction 1For all the passions (not to mention thousands of lives) expended on the matter (and I disagree here with Chris’s assertion that northern nationalists “have always been very relaxed about time frames”) for the moment at least Irish unification remains a solution still looking for a concretised problem to solve.

In the Nolan end of the programme I thought this was probably best illustrated when Clare Hannah struggled to get beyond an base assertion that northern nationalists had to make Northern Ireland work. Fine as a differentiator from Sinn Fein’s apparent determination in the opposite direction, but hardly an adequate answer to Nolan’s vociferous demand to sell a united Ireland to a Unionist ‘other’.

In the southern leg, Pearse Doherty struggled manfully with the same party lines as his colleagues Gerry Kelly and Alex Maskey had done two years ago on the same subject up to and in the wake of those Spotlight Ipsos Mori poll findings. It suggests neither northern party have applied themselves seriously to the engineering work of building north south relations.

ReligionWhat was remarkable about most of the rest of the survey (the bit that both BBC and RTE trailed before broadcast) was just how similar in outlook the two populations are. Conservative but strongly trending towards liberal in matters of sexual orientation and even religion.

The trend away from organised religion fits with similar trends published in the US this week. I’d say this is both a threat and an opportunity for those advocating a united Ireland.

The effort to get one swathe of the population to stay intact as you try to move them corporately over the line will become even more difficult as they further disassociate from the Catholic Church and its ancillary cultural institutions.

The opportunity arises from the resultant freeing up of identities.  In my own view the pursuit of the longer term goal cannot be achieved on the defenderist ‘we are the coming people’ tradition.

Such fluidity, as we have seen in Scotland, will require the creation of larger material connections via broad consent rather than the narrower forms of coercion which have predominated in those areas of tension in the last fifteen to twenty five years.

Indeed, it fell to Pat Rabbit to point out in the last section of the RTE Prime Time programme (after parting with Nolan), “the only way we will get a UI is by using the bridges we already have. And they are not being used!!”

Republican or otherwise, it is hard to argue with that…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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