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Marked divisions around issue of national identity

By Linda Beers

The findings of this poll highlight the marked divisions that exist in our community around the issue of personal national identity and that these divisions become even more marked when views on the sovereignty of Northern Ireland are sought.



Nationality is important to nearly everyone polled, with 88% of those interviewed saying it was either important or very important to them.

The fact that more people described themselves as Irish (42%) than British (39%) may come as a surprise to many.

That 71% of Protestants view themselves as British and 83% of Catholics consider themselves Irish, may have been more predictable.

However, the 18% of respondents who described their nationality as Northern Irish and, in particular, the 24% of Protestants who did so, is surely significant in terms of the impact it has on reducing the overall British figure.

The higher than might have been expected showing for the Northern Irish identity could be seen as a desire on the part of some to distance themselves from the traditional British or Irish labels in an |effort to present a more inclusive identity.

The United Ireland question is a complex one and the |findings of the three questions that were posed relating to it, highlight a complexity |of divergent views. If there was a referendum about a united Ireland, 55% of respondents said they would vote for Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK, while 36% would vote for the north and south to unite. Significantly, 26% of Catholics would want Northern Ireland to remain in the UK.

In contrast, only 6% of Protestants have an interest in a united Ireland.

Over half (51%) of those interviewed believe that the Republic of Ireland’s well documented economic difficulties have made the prospect of a united Ireland less likely, and this view is shared by respondents from both the Protestant and Catholic communities.

Opinion as to what Northern Ireland’s sovereign position will be, come the centenary anniversary of its establishment in 2021, is divided but largely evenly balanced, with 42% believing it will still be part of the UK and 42% believing it will have become part of a united Ireland. Sixteen percent of respondents were not able to express an opinion.

When the detail behind these figures is compared with the findings regarding a united Ireland referendum it is interesting to note that while 85% of Protestants would vote for Northern Ireland to remain in the UK, nearly a quarter (24%) expect it to have become part of a united Ireland come 2021.

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