Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland flags and anthems: View may be that sports are a good testing ground for any new symbols

By Bill White

Our poll coverage today is looking at the thorny issues of flags and anthems, plus asking people how they view the future.

In terms of flags, it is interesting that although the Northern Ireland public weren't sure about a new flag at civic events they would support it for sporting events. Plus they would support a new Northern Ireland anthem. Civic events, seemingly, are viewed as more serious, whereas sporting events are perhaps viewed as more social. Therefore it's maybe thought that sporting events would be the more suitable place for new flags and anthems.

This question of flags and anthems is also linked to identity, which we covered on Monday.

Just relating back to those previous border poll and nationality questions, some commentators and politicians (including Mike Nesbitt last Saturday) seem to be confusing nationality with the NI constitutional position.

Let's be clear; you can be Irish, and see yourself as Irish, and still support NI staying in the UK. Likewise, you can be British and support a united Ireland.

Nationality is an individual personal choice, whereas constitutional questions such as border polls etc, relate to countries which are collections of large numbers of people. Yes there is a link between a person's nationality and what they feel about a constitutional issue, but it's not absolute.

But back to flags and anthems! Again, there was an interesting gender split across the flags and anthem questions. For example, of those who support a new flag for sporting events 62.3% were male, 37.7% female. Likewise of those who supported a new NI anthem this was 60.7% male and 39.3% female. Once again we see the men wanting change whereas the women are a bit more cautious!

In terms of the '10 years ahead question', it was disappointing to see that our 18 to 24 year-old age-group were the most pessimistic about the economy – 20.5% expected economic decline. This was alongside 26.3% of our young people who thought nothing much would change. So nearly one in two of our 18-24 year-olds (47%) expect economic decline or no change over the next 10 years. That's not good!

  • Bill White is managing director of Belfast polling and market research company LucidTalk, Belfast Telegraph polling partners

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