Poll finds only 25% of Catholics wants united Ireland now
Only around a quarter of Catholics in Northern Ireland are in favour of a united Ireland in the short to medium term, according to a major new study of attitudes.
As the results were revealed on TV last night, an Irish government minister admitted the Republic could not cope with taking on financial responsibility for Northern Ireland right now.
Asked if it was affordable, minister Jimmy Deenihan bluntly replied: "No, really."
The survey commissioned for a BBC Nolan Live and RTÉ Prime Time Special also suggested that staying within the UK - either through direct rule or devolution - were more popular options than Irish unity among respondents on both sides of the border.
Asked about Northern Ireland's constitutional status in the short to medium term, almost half of Protestants here (49%) stated a preference for devolution. Unsurprisingly, only 3% wanted a united Ireland, while 30% wanted direct rule. Among Catholics, 38% said devolution was their preference in the same time frame, followed by a united Ireland (27%) and direct rule (14%).
In Northern Ireland, two-thirds of all respondents (66%) - Protestant and Catholic - backed options that would mean the province stays part of the UK in the short to medium term.
In the Republic, 35% of respondents backed devolution, 9% went for direct rule and 36% favoured a united Ireland.
There was stronger support for Irish unity as a longer term option, with 66% of people surveyed in the Republic and 30% in Northern Ireland saying they would like unity in their lifetime.
Results of the poll by Behaviour & Attitudes suggested 20% of people in Northern Ireland believe abortion should never be available.
The cross-border survey suggested that 23% of people here believe it should always be available to women, while a further 56% think it should be an option in some circumstances. Attitudes in the Republic appear slightly more liberal - 14% said terminations should never be allowed, 64% said sometimes and 22% always.
Of those who said abortion should be available in some circumstances, 84% believed it should be allowed if the mother's life was at risk. The result was identical north and south, and if she was a victim of rape, the result was virtually the same (83% and 84% respectively).
If the mother was a victim of incest, it dropped to 77% in the Republic and 75% in Northern Ireland. If the foetus was not expected to survive, it fell again to 70% and 67% respectively.
And if the mother's health was at risk, only 64% in the Republic and 62% north of the border thought it should be an option.