Voters in the Republic would like to see an end to Stormont and the separate political institutions in Northern Ireland if a unity poll was passed, new research finds. But Northern voters would prefer to see the Assembly and the power-sharing institutions continue, and a separate Northern Ireland function within a united Ireland.
Voters in the Republic are more supportive of an “integrated” united Ireland – in which Stormont would be abolished and a single administration located in Dublin – while voters in the North prefer a “devolved” united Ireland, where Northern Ireland would continue as a devolved region with powers over health, policing and education.
And voters in both jurisdictions want the model of a future united Ireland to be clear before they vote on the issue in any referendums.
The research was carried out as part of the North and South series for The Irish Times and ARINS, which is a joint project of the Royal Irish Academy and the University of Notre Dame, and is dedicated to analysing and researching Ireland North and South. It consisted of two major opinion polls in Northern Ireland and the Republic on attitudes to a possible united Ireland, and a series of focus groups in both jurisdictions.
Both polls surveyed over 1,000 people each in Northern Ireland and the Republic, and the margin of error is estimated at plus or minus 3 per cent.
In the surveys voters were asked to choose between two possible types of a united Ireland – one, an integrated united Ireland, where a single political unit is governed from Dublin, and the second, where Northern Ireland would become a devolved region within a new Irish state. This would mean that Northern Ireland would keep its own Assembly and executive, as well as power over areas such as health, education and policing.
Voters were also offered an option to suggest a different model, but there was little response to this.
Opposition to an integrated model was especially strong against voters from a Protestant background in Northern Ireland. Seven out of 10 (70 per cent) of voters from a Protestant background said they were “strongly opposed” to an integrated united Ireland, while that number drops to 30 per cent among Protestant voters when asked about a devolved Northern Ireland.
There is overwhelming support in both the Republic and Northern Ireland for the idea that voters should be told in advance of the vote what model of a united Ireland would result from votes in favour.
Almost seven out of 10 voters (69 per cent) in the North agree that voters should be told “exactly what type of united Ireland” would be implemented if a unity referendum was passed. Some 15 per cent agreed that voters should be told that “if there is a majority vote, then a constitutional convention, made up of people elected from across the island, would agree what type of united Ireland to create and implement”.
In the South, the number of those in favour of being told in advance is lower (59 per cent), but still a clear majority.