Republic takes more relaxed approach to dual identity across the Border

 

ANALYSIS:Almost half the people in the Republic consider Northern Ireland to be Irish and British, according to the Ipsos MRBI 50th anniversary poll.

The survey shows that a substantial majority of people would still like to see a united Ireland but only a minority believe it will happen in the next 25 years.

In the light of the controversy over whether golfer Rory Mcllroy should declare for Ireland or the UK when golf is allowed into the next Olympic Games the poll indicates a growing acceptance of the dual identity of people from NI.

Asked if they considered the people of Northern Ireland to be Irish, British, both or neither – 46 per cent said both, 30 per cent said Irish, 9 per cent said British, 4 per cent said neither and 10 per cent had no opinion.

Younger people are markedly more inclined to have no opinion on this issue but there are no big class variations.

There is a big regional variation with people living in Dublin and Munster much less inclined than the rest to say those from the North are solely Irish. By contrast a majority living in Connacht-Ulster take the view that the people of the North are solely Irish.

In party terms Fine Gael and Labour Party supporters are most strongly of the view that people from the North have a dual national identity.

Dual nationality

A majority of Fianna Fáil supporters also take that view but Sinn Féin supporters, by a small majority, say that people in Northern Ireland are Irish.

Opinion on this issue has not changed all that much over the past 25 years. Back in 1987 42 per cent ascribed dual nationality to those in the North, 33 per cent said they were Irish, 15 per cent British, 6 per cent neither and 5 per cent had no opinion.

One striking feature of the poll is a less partitionist attitude now than in 1987. At that stage when asked what constituted the Irish nation 38 per cent said the 26 counties and 56 per cent said the 32 counties with 6 per cent having no opinion.

In 2012 the proportion saying the 32 counties has remained exactly the same at 56 per cent. But the number saying 26 counties has dropped to 27 per cent while the number with no opinion has jumped to 18 per cent.

In line with other questions about the North those with no opinion is higher among the 18 to 34 age group with almost a third of them in that category.

The drop in adherence to a purely southern Irish identity and the growing acceptance of a dual identity in the North is clearly a response to the Belfast Agreement and the new era in North-South and British-Irish relations.

This is also reflected in the response to the question as to whether a united Ireland is something to be hoped for.Those saying Yes is still substantial at 64 per cent but it has declined since the 1980s. Even more striking, though, is that the number saying that they would prefer not to see a united Ireland has halved to 8 per cent since 1987.

Unity

Again there has been a steep rise in the proportion with no opinion, which has doubled to 28 per cent since 1987. Among younger people aged between 18 and 34 the proportion with no opinion is higher again with 37 per cent having no view.

Interestingly, Fianna Fáil voters were strongest in the view that a united Ireland was something to be hoped for. And, strangely, Sinn Féin voters were not as enthusiastic as Fine Gael supporters, despite the fact that Sinn Féin is the only one actively campaigning for unity.

Given the large number with no opinion on the subject it is interesting to note that 69 per cent of people say they would still favour a united Ireland even if they had to pay more in taxation to support it. Just 20 per cent said they would not favour unity in those circumstances while 11 per cent had no opinion.

While there is still strong support for a united Ireland, a majority do not believe that it would happen in the near future.

Asked which of the assertions came closest to their views, 35 per cent said Northern Ireland would never be reunited with the South, 6 per cent said it would be reunited in 10 years, 16 per cent in 25 years, 15 per cent in 50 years, 8 per cent in 100 years and 20 per cent had no opinion.

Curiously, Sinn Féin voters were significantly stronger in the view that there would never be unity than supporters of other parties.