Irish Times view on all-Ireland poll: politics and people diverge on Brexit

Question of referendum on Irish unity provokes very different feelings on each side of the Border

Seventy-seven per cent of people expressed dissatisfaction with Theresa May’s administration. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Seventy-seven per cent of people expressed dissatisfaction with Theresa May’s administration. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

 

The all-Ireland opinion poll in today’s Irish Times reveals a wide divergence of views between North and South on the desirability of a united Ireland but a clear majority in the North in favour of a soft Brexit with no hard border on the island.

A notable feature is that two-thirds of people in the North are dissatisfied with the way the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is representing them at Westminster with a majority of people preferring border checks between Britain and the North rather than on the island of Ireland.

The question of whether there should be a referendum on Irish unity provokes very different feelings on each side of the Border, with a majority of voters in the Republic in favour and a majority in the North against. As to how they would vote in such a referendum, there was a massive majority of 62 per cent to 19 per cent in the Republic for unity but a majority of 45 per cent to 32 per cent against in the North.



However, when it comes to Brexit the poll demonstrates a widening gulf between politicians and people with the hardline position adopted by the DUP being rejected by 67 per cent of voters. This ranges from 83 per cent among the Catholic community to 52 per cent among their Protestant counterparts.

The approach of the British government is even more unpopular with 77 per cent of people expressing dissatisfaction with Theresa May’s administration. Asked how they would vote if there was another referendum on EU membership, 59 per cent of people in the North would opt to stay. This pro-EU sentiment is also reflected in the fact that a substantial majority of 67 per cent in the North want the UK to remain in the single market and customs union to ensure that there will not be a hard border on the island or checks between the Britain and Northern Ireland.

One of the obvious conclusions from the poll is that the people of Northern Ireland are being failed by politicians of almost all stripes – from the British government down. The strong desire for a soft Brexit and the avoidance of a hard border is not being represented at Westminster because the DUP is out of step with the popular mood while Sinn Féin continues its outmoded policy of abstentionism. Both parties need a radical change in approach if they are to restore confidence in the political process. Yet there is an appetite for politics; 79 per cent of people in the North favour the restoration of the Stormont Assembly irrespective of differences between the parties.

On the question of a referendum on Irish unity the poll findings are a warning that politicians on both sides of the Border should tread warily. A clear majority in the North continues to oppose unity and any perception that it could be foisted on an unwilling population would be fraught with danger.

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