Belfast Telegraph

62% in Republic want Irish unity in Brexit aftermath, says poll

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill at the launch of an Irish Unity billboard in west Belfast
Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill at the launch of an Irish Unity billboard in west Belfast
DUP MEP Diane Dodds

By John Downing and David Young

More than six out of 10 people in the Republic would vote in favour of a united Ireland in a referendum arising out of the current Brexit crisis, a new survey suggests.

The opinion poll indicated that 62% of people across the border favour reunification, with 28% against and 10% saying they would not vote in such a poll.

Support for a united Ireland is spread fairly evenly, with 60% saying "yes" in Dublin, the rest of Leinster and Munster. But that figure rises to 70% in Connacht-Ulster, which includes border counties.

Support is also evenly spread between men and women. Younger people, in the 18-24 age group, are most in favour with 77%.

The backing slightly tails off in the older age groups. People over 65 are least enthusiastic, although support is over 50%.

Research was conducted online with a sample of over 1,000 people chosen from all age groups, social class and regions.

The survey was commissioned by the firm LottoLand and the question was framed in terms of unity in the aftermath of Brexit.

DUP MEP Diane Dodds claimed focusing on a united Ireland was divisive and out of touch.

"The people of Northern Ireland want a functioning Assembly and Executive rather than a divisive border poll," she said.

"While most people want decisions made about their GPs, mental health services, schools and hospitals, Sinn Fein is focused on a united Ireland.

"They are out of touch with the priorities which matter to people," she added.

"Northern Ireland's future is best placed in the Union. Just look at our free NHS. Who would want to leave a health system which is free at the point of need? That's even before you consider the economic, defence, diplomatic, social, historical and cultural reasons for being part of the United Kingdom."

Alliance MLA Stephen Farry, a former Stormont minister, said the key political challenge was not Irish unity, but making Northern Ireland work.

"There is nothing surprising with this outcome," Mr Farry said. "People are entitled to campaign and seek different constitutional outcomes, but in all scenarios the central challenge remains how to make Northern Ireland work.

"That must be the main priority for all political leaders."

Meanwhile, two of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement have combined to pen a strong message to both the Conservative and Labour leaders.

Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern warned that the 1998 Agreement is under threat. They also endorse a second Brexit referendum before the latest extension expires on October 31 next.

"Following the Good Friday Agreement, there were two referendums.

"The referendum in Northern Ireland, on the Agreement, based on facts not promises, clarity not ambiguity, received a 71% yes result," they wrote in The Guardian newspaper.

"The related referendum in the Republic of Ireland achieved a 94% yes.

"There is now time for a confirmatory referendum given the EU has expanded the Brexit deadline to 31 October.

"It is this that must be pursued, and May should take the lead in that process," Mr Ahern and Mr Blair added.

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