Northern Ireland news

Two thirds of people in Republic 'would vote for United Ireland'

Simon Doyle and Brian Hutton

A LARGE majority of people in the Republic would back a united Ireland, a new poll has revealed.

Pollster Red C found that 65 per cent would vote in favour, a rise from a similar survey conducted six years ago that showed support at 57 per cent.

The result is being seen as significant in the wake of Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

The shock Brexit result last month sparked a renewed debate about a referendum on the Irish border.

A majority of voters in both Northern Ireland and Scotland wanted the UK to remain in the EU.

Remain campaigners, including Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, have insisted their wishes must be respected. But Leave backers, including DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster, have insisted the EU referendum result is a UK-wide decision.

Newly appointed Northern Ireland Secretary, James Brokenshire, has moved to effectively rule out the possibility of a referendum on Irish unity, however, saying he does not believe that the conditions required to call a border poll have been met.

In the latest Red C poll, almost two out of three people in the Republic said they would vote for a united Ireland. It involved a sample of 1,000 voters between July 25 and 27.

Asked how they would vote if a referendum was held tomorrow, 65 per cent said they would be in favour of a united Ireland. About 30 per cent said they would vote against, while 5 per cent were undecided.

The findings show an 8 per cent jump in support for a united Ireland since Red C posed the same question in a poll for the Sunday Times in 2010.

Since the Brexit vote, both Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin have both flouted the possibility of supporting a united Ireland. However, Mr Kenny has in recent days retreated from his earlier talk of a referendum.

The SDLP's Claire Hanna last night said the Brexit vote made it clear that the people of England and Ireland had chosen different constitutional futures.

"Across this island there is now a greater hunger for cooperation between north and south and with continental Europe, and for many people their relationship with the UK is fundamentally altered by this result," she said.

"There is an intense job of work for nationalism now to make a case for Irish unity that appeals to heads and hearts and that doesn't play on fears."

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy said momentum for Irish unity was building.

"Partition was disastrous for Ireland north and south. As Irish republicans, we want to build a new and better Ireland, in Europe and encompassing all sections of our people," he said.

"We now have an opportunity to redefine relationships across the island and with the EU. We want to see a wide-ranging debate, involving all sections of the community, about what that new Ireland would look like and how it can be achieved."

 

Remain campaigners, including Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, have insisted their wishes must be respected.

But Leave backers, among them the DUP's  Arlene Foster, have insisted the EU referendum result is a UK-wide decision.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, said he hoped the Brexit result would lead to a united Ireland.

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has in recent days retreated from his earlier talk of a border referendum.

The latest Red C poll also shows Mr Martin's Fianna Fail is the most popular party in the republic. Arch-rivals Fine Gael rely on his support for their minority government, formed after weeks of negotiations following a huge split in the vote earlier this year.

In a cross border survey last year by broadcasters RTE and BBC Northern Ireland, 66 per cent of people in the Republic said they would like to see a united Ireland in their lifetime.

But only 30 per cent in the north held the same view, with 43 per cent saying they would not like to see reunification.

For the latest poll, carried out for bookmaker Paddy Power, Red C interviewed a sample of 1,000 voters in the Republic between July 25 and 27.

Support for a united Ireland was equal at 65 per cent among both men and women.

More (69 per cent) in less well-off social groups than better-off groups (59 per cent) said they would vote for reunification.

Voters living in Dublin (56 per cent) were less likely to vote in favour of a united Ireland than those living outside the capital (68 per cent to 69 per cent).

Sinn Fein (79 per cent) and Fianna Fail (71 per cent) supporters were most likely to back reunification, while Fine Gael (58 per cent) voters were least likely.

There was a clear majority in favour among all age groups, particularly among those aged 55 to 64 (70 per cent).

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