Support for truth commission in North rising, according to survey

Just over one in five DUP supporters believe there will be a united Ireland ‘eventually’

 Belfast City Hall. Photograph: Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty

Belfast City Hall. Photograph: Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty


Support in Northern Ireland for a truth and reconciliation commission is growing, according to a survey published on Friday.

The University of Liverpool study found 45.7 per cent of people agreed or strongly agreed there should be a commission set up to deal with the past, an increase from 31.5 per cent in 2017.

When removing those who did not express an opinion the share wishing for a truth and reconciliation commission rose to 73.6 per cent.

The study, conducted around the time of the December general election in Northern Ireland, examined a wide range of issues, including the rise in the centre-ground Alliance vote and opposition both to a North-South border and one in the Irish Sea. It found that the “undecideds” were key to Northern Ireland’s constitutional future.

The survey of 2,003 people from the North’s 18 constituencies by Social Market Research found that 53.5 per cent favoured remaining in the UK while 28.3 per cent supported Irish unification. The “don’t knows” were at 15.2 per cent.

In analysing the results, some of which were released to the media last month, the university said “those undecided on Northern Ireland’s constitutional future are key to that future”.

Between 2010 and 2019 the share of Protestants who supported remaining in the union grew from 90.3 per cent to 94.5 per cent. In the same period the share of Catholics who supported staying in the union declined from 17.8 per cent to 13.6 per cent.

More voters agreed (40.3 per cent) than disagreed (30.9 per cent) that Irish reunification will happen.

The survey reported that 21.2 per cent of DUP supporters strongly agreed or agreed that “eventually” there will be a united Ireland.

The survey also addressed the “Alliance surge” of 2019. Between the general elections of 2017 and 2019 the Alliance vote increased from 8 per cent to 17 per cent, while in the 2019 election the DUP and Sinn Féin share of the vote dropped by 5.4 per cent and 6.7 per cent by respectively.

The study found that 16.4 per cent of the Alliance vote in December came from those who did not vote in 2017, while the party gained 18.6 per cent of its vote from former DUP voters and 11.6 per cent from former Sinn Féin voters.

On the unity question, 58.8 per cent of Alliance supporters backed continuing in the United Kingdom, with 25.6 per cent favouring Irish unity. Close to half of the generally pro-union Alliance supporters agreed Irish unity would happen.

Brexit vote

In the 2016 Brexit vote Northern Ireland voted by 56 per cent to stay in the European Union. Excluding don’t knows, those who refused to say and those who would not vote, the survey found that now 63 per cent would vote to stay in the EU compared with 37 per cent who would vote to leave.

Legislation to legalise abortion and same-sex marriage was introduced to Northern Ireland through votes at Westminster before the Northern Executive and Assembly were restored.

On abortion, 50 per cent said they would vote to allow abortion only where the mother’s life was in danger; 28 per cent would permit abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy; and 6.3 per cent up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

More than half of those surveyed said it was right to legalise same-sex marriage, while 29 per cent disagreed.

On checks on goods travelling between Britain and Northern Ireland, and between the North and the Republic, 68.5 per cent of those who stated an opinion believed they would be unacceptable.

Just over a quarter agreed or strongly agreed that immigration was good for the economy and society in Northern Ireland.

Seven out of 10 Catholics, compared with 10.7 per cent of Protestants and 22.4 per cent of non-religious, supported an Irish language Act.