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'Little comfort for Sinn Fein' says DUP's Sammy Wilson as poll shows 21% support Irish unity


DUP MP Sammy Wilson

DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said that a new poll showing that only 21% of people in Northern Ireland would vote for a united Ireland is "little comfort for republicans".

An academics poll by Ipsos MORI found that just 21.1% of people in Northern Ireland would vote for Irish unity after the UK leaves the EU.

The poll, commissioned by Queens University Belfast, showed that not even half of Catholics living in Northern Ireland would vote for a united Ireland, with 42.6% in favour and 26% undecided.

A second poll by the UK In A Changing Europe Project showed that 69% would favour Remain if there was another referendum compared to 56% at the vote two years ago.

It said Catholics were much more likely to support a united Ireland if there was a "hard exit" in which the UK left the customs union and single market and that only one in five Catholics found the possible use of cameras at the Irish border "almost impossible to accept" and nearly one in 10 Catholics (9%) would support cameras being vandalised.

However, there are serious concerns in Northern Ireland about the impact of Brexit on the Union.

60% of people in Northern Ireland believe that Brexit has made the break-up of the UK more likely.

And few people in Northern Ireland appear to believe that the Union will last in the long term. While 63% believe it will still exist in 10 years time, only 28% believe it will be around in 50 years time - and only 22% think it will survive another century.

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson claimed the results of the polls "provide little comfort for republicans whilst supporting the DUP’s opposition to barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and both the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain."

“There is no comfort for SF in the opinion poll published today. Any republican trying to spin this as a success story is grasping at straws," Mr Wilson said.

"Just 10% of people say Sinn Fein is doing a good job of representing them. Only 21% would vote for a United Ireland. Only 24% would support Sinn Féin’s special status scheme of moving the border to the Irish Sea as we Exit the EU. In contrast, there is clear support for the DUP’s position that we should not cut ourselves off from our nearest neighbours in the Irish Republic, or have a border down the Irish Sea.

"Then less than 20% agree with Sinn Fein that there can’t be a technology solution to the border post-Brexit." 

Mr Wilson said the poll gave voters little choice on Brexit issues.

"Not even Gerry Adams could spin this poll as a good result for Sinn Fein," the East Antrim MP said.

"All these results are despite some leading questions and pejorative language in the questions. On the questions about the Single Market and the Customs Union, the interviewee effectively has a gun held to their head. 

"They can support continued single market and customs union membership or they can opt for and effective Armageddon. The poll paints the alternative to the single market and customs union as army check points, 30 minute queues at the border and passport checks.

"Faced with such a black and white choice and one blood-curding scenario it is little wonder people would opt for the outcome which seems best."

The DUP MP said that practical solutions could be found to concerns around Brexit.

"There is a way to implement the result of the referendum and avoid the type of border that remainers like to paint," Mr Wilson said. 

"To get there requires the EU and Republic of Ireland to work pragmatically. They need to be prepared to use technology and administrative solutions which will and can facilitate trade as well as those who will want to go about their normal life as they live along the border.”

Sinn Fein's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir rejected Mr Wilson's comments.

"The ground is shifting in the north, not only among nationalists but in the unionist community too," the South Belfast MLA said.

"Even the British Prime Minister knows there is growing support for Irish unity and civic unionists are engaging with Irish officials about the form and shape of a new Ireland.

"There is also intense public opposition to physical infrastructure, to checks and to controls and it’s no surprise that an increasing number of people now want to remain in the EU - which is reported to have risen from 56% to 69%.

"Given that EU leaders have also dismissed Britain’s infrastructure proposals as a ‘fantasy island unicorn model’, clearly they are not impressed either."

Belfast Telegraph