Five years to shift opinions in the North in favour of a united Ireland - Sinn Féin TD

Eoin Ó Broin says ‘it’s all to play for’ despite just 26 per cent in favour of Irish unity in the North

Five years remains a realistic timeframe to shift opinions in the North in favour of a united Ireland, according to senior Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin.

An Ipsos poll published by the Irish Times suggests that just 26 per cent of voters in the North support Irish unity with 50 per cent against. Some 19 per cent are in the ‘don’t know category’.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has previously suggested that a border poll could be held in as little as five years time.

Mr Ó Broin said on Tuesday that he still views this as realistic, despite the current support levels for a united Ireland in the North.


He said: “For me what was interesting about the poll is that a large number of undecideds in the North and in fact that support for the union is at 50 per cent.”

He said this gives him “some cause for optimism” that “if the debate is done in the right way” and “groundwork” like setting up a Citizens’ Assembly on Irish Unity is put in place that “a poll within for example, a five-year timeframe, could see significant shifting of opinion”.

Mr Ó Broin added: “I’m not naive. I lived on an interface in North Belfast for nine years of my life and I understand the strongly held views of unionists and loyalists.

“But I don’t think anybody can read from that poll that the outcome is decided.

“I think it’s all to play for.”


He added that if the preparation and integrity of the referendum process is “done right” he would be “pretty optimistic that no matter what the outcome, all sides will accept that.”

He said the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement is next year and “people have a reasonable expectation that a poll could be and should be called within the lifetime of another government and we would like to play a central role in that.”

Mr Ó Broin was speaking ahead of a Sinn Féin motion in the Dáil calling on the Government to speed up the establishment of a redress scheme for homeowners whose apartment and duplex properties have Celtic Tiger-era defects.

He said it needs to be a 100 per cent redress scheme, modelled on the previous pyrite scheme, and delivered by a public agency.

Mr Ó Broin criticised the pace of Government action in the area pointing to reports that Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien intends to bring a memo to Cabinet on the issue by the end of the year.

He said this is two and a half years into the Coalition and that if setting up a redress scheme follows a similar timeline to the one for Mica damaged homes “it could be 2024 before homeowners or tenants get any redress”.

He also said funding needs to be available now for fire safety works in some developments “so people are safe in their homes.”

Mr Ó Broin added: “This is an issue obviously of huge concern – anything up to 100,000 homes and at a cost expected to be €2.5 billion.

“The greater the delay the more the cost both financial and human on homeowners and tenants and we need the minister and Government to act now.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times