Belfast Telegraph

51% in Republic of Ireland want vote on unification in next five years, latest opinion poll says

Speech: Mary McAleese
Speech: Mary McAleese

By Staff Reporter

A slim majority of people in the Irish Republic want a border poll held sometime in the next five years, a new opinion poll has suggested.

The survey of 1,000 people conducted by pollsters Amarach for TheJournal.ie last week found that 51% want to see such a referendum take place.

Some 29% would not like a referendum on Irish unity within five years, while 20% were unsure.

Respondents in the province of Munster were keenest on a unity referendum inside five years (62%), while those in Dublin were least in favour (40%).

The figure for Leinster (excluding Dublin) was 55% in favour, while in Connacht/Ulster fewer than half (47%) backed one within five years.

Interest in a unity poll faded with age: the survey found that among respondents aged 18-24, 70% back such a poll, while in both the 45-54 and 55-plus groups, the figure fell to 43%.

It came as former Irish President Mary McAleese said that Ireland needed to abandon the traditional idea of Irish unity.

Speaking in St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin as part of a panel at the Jonathan Swift Festival, Belfast-born Mrs McAleese (68) told her audience: "We really, really have to abandon the old narrative around a united Ireland.

"We have to create a new narrative around a reconciled Ireland where everyone is welcome."

She noted that "a Northern Catholic majority may or may not translate into support for a united Ireland", but felt that the emergence of Brexit as a political issue had created "a new constituency of people who may well see themselves as European, but unionist".

These were people who might "if the circumstances were offered to them, perhaps make a choice to join a united Ireland in order to remain in Europe".

The former Queen's University Belfast academic applauded the way today's Republic of Ireland had handled its increasing diversity and growing immigrant population.

"Today, 17% of our population comes from somewhere else," she said.

"The last time that happened was probably the Plantation.

"But this has been a different kind of absorption, and I think in general we have done a really, really wonderful job."

But she added: "That is not to say we don't have racism in our midst.

"It's not to say that some people coming here [don't] experience the kind of racism that breaks your heart and makes you say, 'Hang on a minute, we were the people who were the victims of racism', whether it was in England, where it was 'no Irish need apply', or in America, wherever we went to.

"We have no right to behave like that," she said.

Other panellists included Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, historian Ida Milne and economist David McWilliams.

Mrs McAleese is now president-elect of Trinity College, Dublin.

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