Belfast Telegraph

Unionist delight as poll reveals only 27% of Catholics want united Ireland in short-to-medium term

By Noel McAdam

Unionists have hailed the results of a cross-border poll indicating that just 27% of Catholics here back Irish unity in the short-to-medium term.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell quipped on Twitter: "Oh dear - the losers are losing again."

His colleague Gavin Robinson argued the findings reinforced earlier studies showing strong support for the union.

"For unionists there is obviously much to welcome in the results, but nothing to become complacent about," he said.

"There are obviously many people within Northern Ireland for whom a united Ireland presents little attraction, but they would not class themselves as unionist or vote for any unionist candidate. That is a challenge but also a huge opportunity, which I welcome. "

The poll for the BBC's Stephen Nolan Show and RTE's Prime Time suggested just 13% of people here want a united Ireland in the short-to-medium term with support for the idea among Catholics unexpectedly low at only 27%.

Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott said the study was evidence of a change in attitudes. "I have known for some time that there are a growing number among Catholics who would not support reunification," he added.

"I have found on the doorsteps in what I call the broad nationalist community that there are more who are happy to remain within the UK. They see there is greater financial and social security."

His party also added in a statement that the most interesting result was the way "the already limited support for a United Ireland diminished as those who started off saying they favoured it hit reverse gear as they realised that they would have to pay for it".

Sinn Fein, on the other hand, called for an "open and informed debate" on the reunification. MEP Matt Carthy argued: "Partition has failed the test of history. No one with any credibility would propose that partition has been good for reconciliation, jobs and the economy or delivering effective and accessible public services.

"The findings of the survey demonstrate a baseline level of support for unity North and South that can and must be built on."

In a party statement, the SDLP added: "[Our] vision for the future is a reconciled people living in a united, just and prosperous new Ireland. We believe the precursor to unity is making the North work, and that's the job at hand for us.

"The Scottish referendum demonstrated the scale of swing possible in a few short years when the public becomes engaged in a discussion about their future. We are confident that such a debate can be carried out in a sensitive, mature and exciting way."

Alliance, however, said parties should concentrate on other issues. The party added in a statement: "The constitutional question is not the defining issue of everyday lives, and it is time that was recognised. Political parties should not play on people's fears but instead concentrate on how we can make Northern Ireland better."

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