Erosion of North’s two tribes vests power in the non-aligned

Economics, culture and expected reality will shape centre’s desire for unification

Men remove material from a July 11th night bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre: A growing bloc of middle-ground voters makes it possible a referendum for unification could pass in Northern Ireland. Photograph:  PA Wire

Men remove material from a July 11th night bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre: A growing bloc of middle-ground voters makes it possible a referendum for unification could pass in Northern Ireland. Photograph: PA Wire

The political landscape in Northern Ireland has shifted out of all recognition. Brexit has disrupted comfortable assumptions. While unionism is weaker than it has ever been, history may not be moving inexorably in nationalism’s direction.

Non-aligned voters are now the key to Northern Ireland’s future. The emergence of a bloc of 15-20 per cent who support such parties as Alliance and the Greens, combined with the inability of either unionists or nationalists to command more than 50 per cent of the vote, means that the outcome of a future referendum rests in the hands of those who do not identify strongly with either faction. The decline of the “two tribes” and the growth of the centre in recent election results mirrors the findings of opinion polls and the census.

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