Northern Ireland news

Academics launch border poll consultation

People across the north are being invited to air their views on the prospect of a border poll. Picture by Rui Vieira/PA Wire

PEOPLE across the north are being invited to give their views on the prospect of a border poll.

University College London (UCL) is leading a public consultation aimed at gathering a range of opinions on how a referendum on Irish unity could be conducted.

A border poll is envisaged in certain circumstances by the Good Friday Agreement, with the secretary of state obliged to call such a vote if a majority for a united Ireland appears likely.

The independent researchers note that recent developments may have increased the likelihood of a referendum yet it is unclear what form a vote would take.


They believe groundwork is necessary to ensure that if a border poll is called, the process would be conducted in a way that maintained legitimacy and political stability.

The group of 13 academics overseeing the consultation – the Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland – are drawn from UCL, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and the University of Pennsylvania.

Their work is part of a two-year project funded by the British Academy and Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

The project will not take a view on whether such a vote would be desirable or what the outcome should be. It only examines what the process of any such referendum would involve.

Project leader Dr Alan Renwick said the group wanted to hear from as many people and groups as possible.

"This stage will play a critical role in informing our research," he said.

"We look forward to hearing the views of as many people as possible."

Group member Prof Cathy Gormley-Heenan from Ulster University said: "It is really important that any decisions about Northern Ireland’s future are informed not only by independent, rigorous research, but also by the diversity of views and voices of the public.

"Because of this, we want to ensure that the multiplicity of perspectives on the possibility of a future referendum on Northern Ireland’s constitutional status is captured and reflected in the report of the working group."

Consultation responses will be reflected in the group’s final report but individual responses will be anonymous.

The survey can be completed online at and closes on September 2.

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