More than half of voters in the North support a united Ireland within the next 15 to 20 years, according to a new opinion poll.
Some 41 per cent of those surveyed said they would vote “yes” to a united Ireland if a poll was held today, and a further ten per cent said they “would or may” vote yes in 15 to 20 years’ time.
A total of 48 per cent said they would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom if a border poll was held today, but this dropped to 44 per cent over the 15 to 20-year period.
The poll, which was carried out by Belfast-based pollsters LucidTalk for the Sunday Times and Belfast Telegraph, also found support for a united Ireland was strongest among younger voters.
More than half of 18-24-year-olds – a total of 57 per cent – said they would vote for a united Ireland today, compared to 35 per cent who said they would prefer to remain in the United Kingdom.
Among 25-44-year-olds, 48 per cent said they would vote for a united Ireland today, while 42 per cent said they would vote against, while support for remaining in the United Kingdom was highest among older voters.
When broken down by party allegiance, 43 per cent of those who said they voted Alliance, Green or “other” said they didn’t know or weren’t sure, while 31 per cent supported unity and 26 per cent favoured remaining in the United Kingdom.
The poll also found almost 70 per cent of nationalist voters agreed with comments by the Sinn Féin deputy leader and First Minister designate, Michelle O’Neill, earlier this month that there was “no alternative” to the IRA’s campaign during the Troubles.
Speaking on the BBC’s Red Lines podcast, Ms O’Neill said “I don’t think any Irish person ever woke up one morning and thought that conflict was a good idea, but the war came to Ireland.
“I think at the time there was no alternative, but now, thankfully, we have an alternative to conflict and that’s the Good Friday Agreement.”
Her comments were strongly condemned by victims of IRA violence and by the North’s other main political parties.
Among nationalist and republican voters, 69 per cent agreed with the statement that there was no alternative, while 25 per cent agreed there was “always an alternative”.
Support for Ms O’Neill’s comments was highest among Sinn Féin voters, with 85 per cent agreeing with her.
However, SDLP voters took a completely different view; only 20 per cent agreed with Ms O’Neill, while 73 per cent disagreed.
The survey also showed that support for the DUP’s stance on the Northern Ireland protocol is increasing amongst unionist voters.
The DUP has refused to re-enter the powersharing government at Stormont until its concerns over the protocol – the part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement which avoided a hard border on the island of Ireland by placing an economic border in the Irish Sea – are addressed to its satisfaction.
Fifty per cent of unionists felt the DUP should “not return to Stormont until the Northern Ireland protocol is removed completely”, compared to 37 per cent in the last poll in May.
The LucidTalk survey was based on an online poll carried out between August 12th and 15th. A total of 3,384 responses were received which were weighted to be demographically representative of the Northern Ireland electorate.