Northern Ireland news

Third of people 'would vote for a united Ireland tomorrow', survey finds

People take part in an Irish unity march as they cross the Lifford Bridge, from Donegal, in 2019. File picture by Niall Carson, Press Association

A THIRD of people would vote for a united Ireland if a referendum were to be held tomorrow, according to a landmark survey.

The 2020 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, seen as a key indicator of public opinion in Northern Ireland, found that support for Irish unity had risen.

More than a quarter (26%) of people now believe that the long-term policy for the north should be Irish unification - a rise of 4% compared to the 2019 survey.

However, 53% of people would still vote against a united Ireland in a snap poll, the survey found.

Looking ahead, 41% of people believe the UK will exist in two decades' time.

But only just over a third (34%) think there will be a united Ireland by 2040.

"The difference seems to lie in the fact that Irish unification is thought to be very unlikely by twice as many of those who think the same of the prospects for the break-up of the UK," the survey stated.

The survey found Brexit had had a significant impact on people's views about the future of Northern Ireland.

Last year, there was a 19% increase in the proportion of respondents who said that Brexit makes a united Ireland more likely, compared to 2019.

Around 35% of people said Brexit made Irish unity more desirable, compared to 25% in the previous year.

With regard to the European Union, around 55% of respondents identified as remainers - roughly the same as in 2019.

Three-quarters of people said the UK should be seeking a closer future relationship with the European Union.

However, half of people said they had no knowledge of the Northern Ireland Protocol - a post-Brexit trade agreement which has effectively caused a customs border in the Irish Sea.

Of those who were aware of the deal, 46% viewed it as a 'mixed bag', 18% said it was a bad thing and 16% said it was a good thing.

The annual survey is normally done face-to-face but, due to the coronavirus pandemic, 95% of interviews were done via an online questionnaire and 5% were done via the telephone or Microsoft Teams.

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