Editor's Viewpoint: We are still ‘poles apart’ on identity
The opinion poll in today’s Belfast Telegraph shows that on the virtual eve of another St. Patrick’s Day, the question of identity remains paramount in Northern Ireland.
The poll is the latest in our series which presents a snapshot of current thinking, and while the findings do not suggest a blueprint for the future, they provide much food for thought.
There is no surprise that 85% of Protestants wish to continue the link with Britain.
However, some 24% of Protestants believe that Northern Ireland will not exist by 2021, which is the centenary of the partition of Ireland. This latter figure reflects the abiding fear of some Protestants that the ‘Border’ will not last.
However 42% of the total poll agree that Northern Ireland will still be part of the UK in just over a decade from now, with exactly the same figure of 42% disagreeing.
This is ironic in a province where people rarely agree politically on anything.
The poll suggests that while 26% of Catholics would vote for Northern Ireland staying in the UK, as many as 69% still favour a united Ireland. This latter figure is no surprise.
Significantly, however, some 55% of Catholics also believe that a united Ireland is less likely because of the severe economic downturn in the Republic.
Overall, the poll reflects aspirations and fears on both sides, and the polling-booth always concentrates minds realistically.
Nevertheless, these polls are useful barometers, and the recent history of Northern Ireland has shown that nothing can ever be taken for granted.