Many voters in Republic unwilling to make concessions to unionists to facilitate Irish unity, poll shows

Peace, economy and health service top concerns North and South

NI Poll top image

Many voters in the Republic are unwilling to make concessions to unionists to accommodate them in a potential united Ireland, according to new research.

Almost half of all voters say that changes to the National Anthem and flag would make them less likely to vote for a united Ireland in a referendum in the Republic, an opinion poll by Ipsos has found.

A unionist veto would also make 45 per cent of voters in the Republic less likely to vote for a united Ireland, while half of all voters say they would be more likely to vote for such a proposal if it promoted a publicly-funded secular school system.

Northern Irish voters are much less likely to vote for a united Ireland if it adopted the health system of the Republic.

NI poll graphic Monday

Two polls, conducted simultaneously in Northern Ireland and the Republic, examined voters’ attitudes to a possible united Ireland and referendums on the issue.

They are part of the North and South series, a joint project of ARINS and The Irish Times. ARINS is a research collaboration between the Royal Irish Academy and the University of Notre Dame in the United States, and is dedicated to analysing and researching Ireland North and South.

North and South, Ireland is divided on the unity question

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The research found that the potential impact of Irish unity on the economy and the health system are the top concerns for voters in Northern Ireland, while the maintenance of peace on the island is the number one issue in the Republic.

Asked what they thought was the “most important thing that voters would need to know in order to make an informed decision on Irish unity”, 38 per cent of voters in the Republic cited “whether a united Ireland would be peaceful”, while 33 per cent said the most important thing was “how a united Ireland would affect the economy”.

NI poll graphic Monday

In Northern Ireland only half as many voters – 19 per cent – said that peace on the island was their main concern. A similar proportion to the Republic – 32 per cent – were concerned about the economy. But voters in Northern Ireland were much more concerned about how a united Ireland would affect the health system, with 28 per cent nominating it as their number one concern.

The concern about the future of the health system in Northern Ireland surfaces again when respondents were asked a series of questions on issues that would make them more or less likely to vote in favour of a united Ireland.

Many voters in both jurisdictions say they are less likely to vote for a united Ireland if it makes them worse off, and more likely to do so if it makes them better off – but large minorities in both places say that this would make no difference to their votes.

While the health service in a united Ireland surfaces as a major issue for Northern voters, education is important for those in the Republic.

NI poll graphic Monday

The North and South project involves two simultaneous, identical polls taken in Northern Ireland and the Republic and a series of focus groups in both jurisdictions to discuss issues related to potential Irish unity and possible future referendums on the subject.

The first results were reported in The Irish Times last Saturday and showed that a border poll would be easily defeated in Northern Ireland, but would pass comfortably in the Republic. There was strong backing for holding referendums in both jurisdictions.

Both polls were conducted among over 1,000 voters in both Northern Ireland and the Republic in August/September this year.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times