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Editor's Viewpoint

The NHS is crucial now more than ever

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People walk past street art supporting the NHS near to the Ulster Hospital on the outskirts of Belfast (Niall Carson/PA)

People walk past street art supporting the NHS near to the Ulster Hospital on the outskirts of Belfast (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

People walk past street art supporting the NHS near to the Ulster Hospital on the outskirts of Belfast (Niall Carson/PA)

The results from the latest LucidTalk poll, which we publish today, suggests that the NHS will play a key part in any border poll, as a quarter of those polled say that it would significantly determine their preference.

The poll, commissioned by political analyst Mev Brown, found that 35% of people would vote for Irish unity and 34% would opt to support the Union. Mr Brown comments: "Deeply committed nationalists will opt for Irish unity regardless, but a significant number of SDLP supporters are more likely to be swayed to remain in the UK because of the healthcare system it offers.

"The NHS is an even bigger issue for Alliance and Green voters.

"Potentially losing it doesn't overly concern the young, but it features much more prominently in the minds of older voters."

The poll also shows that the under-45s would choose Irish unity by a significant margin regardless of the NHS, which indicates that unionists must face up urgently to their ageing demographic. However 75% of DUP and 55% of Ulster Unionist voters would vote to remain in the UK, irrespective of the NHS.

The poll was conducted in late September, but the findings are particularly relevant in the context of last week's launch of the Taoiseach's Shared Island unit, and the recent call from the politically savvy former DUP leader Peter Robinson for the unionists in the North to prepare themselves for the distinct likelihood of a border poll.

In reality, there is little possibility of a border poll any time soon, as there is no appetite for this in the corridors of power in London or even Dublin. However that reality does not deter Sinn Fein for campaigning for a border poll at every opportunity.

The numbers game that was re-awakened by Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots' view of the political breakdown of Covid-19 cases was another reminder of the depressing narrative which a border poll would inevitably bring.

Nevertheless it should be stressed that all talk of a border poll at this time of a public health crisis is ultimately a distraction from the immense challenges posed by the pandemic.

There is little doubt that most people in Northern Ireland desire an even more effective NHS not because it would strengthen the Union, but because it would be of immense help in the war against Covid-19. Consequently all our political leaders must not lose sight of the need to keep the NHS strong for all the people because it is the right thing to do, and not because it will have a huge bearing on the results of a border poll.

Belfast Telegraph


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