Monday 15 March 2010

The Future of Northern Ireland

The Belfast Telegraph today published the results of an opinion poll by Inform Communications which looked at the issue of personal national identity and the future of Northern Ireland as a state.

The results are very interesting, and lend some support to the thesis of this blog – that Northern Ireland is a state on borrowed time, and will ultimately cease to exist. The question is 'when?'

National identity

A headline outcome of the poll is that a greater proportion of those polled consider themselves to be Irish (42%) than British (39%):


A further 18%, mostly Protestant, consider themselves 'Northern Irish' – a curious choice which demonstrates an unwillingness by a quarter of Protestants – even when given the choice – to describe themselves as British.

Border Poll

The bad news for nationalism in the poll is that, when asked how they would vote if there was a border poll today, 55% (including 26% of Catholics) said that they would vote to stay in the UK, against 36% who would vote for a united Ireland. As ever, though, there is some wiggle-room – 51% of those asked (and broadly similar proportions of both religions) said that the current economic problems in the south made the prospects of a united Ireland less likely. Since the south's economic problems could be only temporary, there remains a good possibility that if and when the southern economy recovers the proportion in the north who are hesitant about reunification on economic ground will reduce – eating into that 55/36 unionist lead in the hypothetical border poll.


The Future

Despite the current unionist lead in a hypothetical border poll, when respondents were asked what they expected the status of Northern Ireland to be in 2021, the proportion who expected that it would still be in the UK (42%) was exactly the same as the proportion (42%) who expected that it will have become part of a united Ireland. Even 24% of Protestants expect that Northern Ireland will be part of a united Ireland in barely 11 years!


Conclusions
  • Firstly, a border poll held today would fail – but this is not a surprise. This blog has argued that the necessary nationalist majority will not arrive until some time during the 2020s,
  • Secondly, the proportion of the population in Northern Ireland who view themselves as part of the Irish nation is large and probably growing. Although the poll did not report on the ages of the interviewees, it is likely that at the younger age groups the proportion who see themselves as Irish is higher than the average figure of 42%.
  • Thirdly, unionists lack confidence in their future – although most Protestants, and a minority of Catholics, would vote to remain in the UK today, a higher proportion think that it will have left the UK in barely a decade. 6% of Protestants would vote for a UI today, but 24% think it will have happened in 10 years.
The way forward

For nationalists this poll presents interesting challenges. The 24% of Protestants who think that there will be a UI in a decade or so need to be convinced that this UI will be a place in which they feel at home, thus bringing at least some of them from the 'reluctant but accepting' camp to the 'positive' camp.
The 24% of Protestants who see themselves as 'Northern Irish' need to be convinced that Northern Irish is compatible with Irish, and that the Irish nation includes them too.
Last but not least, nationalists north and south must work hard to improve the economies of both parts of the country – because it is a good thing in its own right, and also because it reduces the risks and uncertainties of reunification. The 51% who see the south's economic problems as a barrier to reunification could become persuaded for unity if the south rebuilds a modern and robust economy.

This poll supports a number of accepted truths – that Protestants are likely to support the union with Britain, and that Catholics are likely to support reunification with the south. It also supports the oft-quoted statistic that a quarter of Catholics would vote to remain in the UK (though it adds the interesting fact that 6% of Protestants would vote for a UI). The poll doesn't answer questions about the strength of feeling for these positions, but the fact that the proportion of Catholics who see themselves as 'British' (8%) is far lower than those who would vote to stay in the UK implies that their 'allegiance' is weak. The 4% of Protestants who consider themselves as 'Irish' is closer to the 6% who would vote for a UI.

Overall this poll shows the hill ahead that nationalism must climb – not a mountain, but not a walk in the park either.

36 comments:

niamh scullion said...

one problem with all your polls, none of them consider what the people in the south feel. Are they happy with what they have? How many of them would vote against border change?

Anonymous said...

It's not looking good for Irish Nationalism. The Union's secure.

Anonymous said...

Bel Tel poll, yeah I like it I can get something positive out of it.

Life and Times polls, No I'll reject them they dont fit my agenda.

Horseman said...

People,

This is just a poll, don't read too much into it. We don't know all of its methodology, and even if we did we'd argue about whether it was robust or not. And it is NI, don't forget. People in NI lie to pollsters.

On the basis of this poll neither side should get excited - it's just a bit of Monday fluff. The real poll will come in less than two months, so chill a little till then.

Paddy Canuck said...

"It's not looking good for Irish Nationalism. The Union's secure."

To paraphrase: "Oh, look, the deck chairs aren't actually floating just yet... all this stuff about the Titanic sinking is just rubbish."

Paisley isn't the only one who should be tuning up for "Nearer, My God, to Thee".

New times, New approach said...

If 26% of Catholics would prefer the north of Ireland to remain in the UK then why do they vote for parties (SF and SDLP) who are firmly committed to removing the north from the UK?

I don't think anyone could seriously believe that these catholics all vote Unionist, because if they did, then both of the largest parties in NI would be Unionist. But why don't they?
If they wish to remain in the UK then voting for the nationalist parties seems rather like turkeys voting for christmas.

I just hope that the unionists remain as dim as these people and don't realize that the only reason they appear not to want to vote unionist is because unionism is so offensively triumphalist and sectarian. Just imagine how enormously longer it would take to finally merge with the rest of the country if they were not!

Anonymous said...

Opinion polls are the real polls as regards the issue of Irish Unity. The only thing more accurate would be an actual border poll - which appears about as likely to happen as Mr Adams apologising for Warrenpoint.

Anonymous said...

New Times New Approach said:

"If 26% of Catholics would prefer the north of Ireland to remain in the UK then why do they vote for parties (SF and SDLP) who are firmly committed to removing the north from the UK?"

It's quite simple old boy, not all Catholics in NI vote - but will still give their opinion to a pollster. There is also, of course, the NI habit of voting for 'your own'. Also, some Catholics vote Alliance. How firmly committed to 'removing the north from the UK' either SF or SDLP leaders are is opinion to conjecture."

Anonymous said...

I think the crucial word which here seems forgotton is "today". I can see that a reunified Ireland could make quite a bit of sense in the long term, and I think that it will probably come about at some stage within the next half century.
But, I would beyond any shaddow of a doubt vote unionist in a border poll tomorrow morning, and indeed probably would do the same on Friday week. It's largely dependent upon current economics and the social/cross-community situation on both sides of the border. Though I'll vote moderate nationalist for the meantime, seeing as they're going forward into the future direction.

Anonymous said...

I'm as die-hard a nationalist as it gets, but even I wouldn't vote for unification today - mostly because it would be a huge economic set back for the South, which is where my interests primarily lie.

But the Republic by 2016, if it plays it's cards right, could have easily turned the tables on the economy and be doing very well again. just look at initiatives like the "Spirit of Ireland" etc.

Another poll in that situation and I'd certainly vote yes.

The dialogue needs to begin now though - firm plans need to be drawn up, as in Scotland.

And that's a good point, the future of NI could depend heavily on the future of Scotland.

Anonymous said...

Scotland's going nowhere - check out the Scottish opinion polls...

Anonymous said...

The future of N.I. also depends on the influx of foreigners into Britain and Ireland. The more foreigners, the more people's attachment to their mother countries aka home states are bound to decrease.

Your nittygritty obsession with infinitesimal minute details separating protestants and roman catholics is simply hilareous.
Wake up.

Whe Irish eyes are smiling behind the burka, Ulstermen & Nationalists might get second thoughts. In 2020, it might be likely, that at least 10% of newborns in Dublin are to muslim mothers. That'l destroy your wet dream, first dreamt by de Valera.

Anonymous said...

I agree, The UK has already been invaded and continues to be swamped by foreigners. Ireland will surely follow. No doubt Horseman and his fellow travellers will seize upon these comments as proof that Loyalists are tied in with The BNP or The Third Reich or whatever and hope to use them to boost The Irish cause. The complacent fools...

paul said...

as for migrants people, that's sinn fiens next move, to get immigration powers transferred from London to Ireland. leaving just defense and taxation in London's hands. shouldn't be to hard to argue for control of our own finances.

As for you unionists thinking Catholics voting against a united Ireland is going to save the union, WISE UP....

What about the inevitable swing in people moving from south to north,
now that there's peace.(I've seen a good few in derry already).

in the year or two leading up to a border poll we'll be working overtime to get address's for our southern brethren, coming to the north for the big day. there's plenty of them, even some on this blog

Anonymous said...

Paul Said:

"as for migrants people, that's sinn fiens next move, to get immigration powers transferred from London to Ireland. leaving just defense and taxation in London's hands. shouldn't be to hard to argue for control of our own finances."

I'm afraid not old boy, immigration is reserved to Westminster (obviously). As for finances, there's no chance of any significant changes, as regards CT etc, as other regions of The UK would seek similar.

"As for you unionists thinking Catholics voting against a united Ireland is going to save the union, WISE UP...."

Try reading some opinion polls - they've even been published on this blog.

"What about the inevitable swing in people moving from south to north,
now that there's peace.(I've seen a good few in derry already)."

There's more have moved in from The UK mainland.

"in the year or two leading up to a border poll we'll be working overtime to get address's for our southern brethren, coming to the north for the big day. there's plenty of them, even some on this blog"

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

Perhaps Unionists will do the same - you can draw on 4 million, they can draw on 60 million. LOL

Wiz said...

It's if 60million people in Britain really give a shit about NI Unionists. Hahahaha

Paddy Canuck said...

"I'm afraid not old boy, immigration is reserved to Westminster (obviously)."

Oh, that can be devolved, young gal. Quebec is a province in Canada, not a nation-state, and yet it still has control over the people who get to move directly into it from outside the country, granted by Ottawa. The precedent exists, and could be adopted in Northern Ireland vis-a-vis the UK as well.

"Perhaps Unionists will do the same - you can draw on 4 million, they can draw on 60 million. LOL"

Yeah, and there's 70 million of us in the diaspora. Me, I can legally move to Belfast anytime I like... And there are millions like me besides; foreign-born Irish citizens. And we won't have to 100% depopulate our countries to make it happen, either.

paul said...

"Perhaps Unionists will do the same - you can draw on 4 million, they can draw on 60 million. LOL"

dream on m8 people in Britain couldn't give a monkeys and you no it.

maybe Glasgow, but that's full of Irish nationalists to.
check this out
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgN61IU8wLU&feature=related

plenty of heads there.

also have you looked at the amount of unionists from the north going to British university's,.

not to mention people from the south swarming allover northern university's, Derry, Coleraine and queens in Belfast.

as i say its is really only going one way, Derry City Council is completely dominated by nationalists and belfast council is heading the same way.

North South bodies,
Irish languange Act,
Most powers already transfered from london to ireland,
Londonderry/Derry soon to be
Derry/Doire,
Butchers Apron soon to be removed from the belfast city hall,
Support of 40 million Irish Americans,
Brits don't give a monkeys, would rather get rid,

which way do you reckon its heading, I'd just take a leaf out of horseman's book and just sit back and enjoy the show.

PS keep er lit HM...

Anonymous said...

Wiz said:

"It's if 60million people in Britain really give a shit about NI Unionists. Hahahaha"

The problem for you is that only a small proportion of them need 'to give a shit' to out vote those who live in the potato republic. Boom boom!

Anonymous said...

Paddy Canuck said:

""I'm afraid not old boy, immigration is reserved to Westminster (obviously)."

Oh, that can be devolved, young gal. Quebec is a province in Canada, not a nation-state, and yet it still has control over the people who get to move directly into it from outside the country, granted by Ottawa. The precedent exists, and could be adopted in Northern Ireland vis-a-vis the UK as well."

You really are hopeless aren't you Paddy? I didn't say it wasn't possible in the same way that The UK could become a US State or a pig might one day fly. It is reserved under The Belfast Agreement and could only be transferred if agreed by both communities and The UK State.

""Perhaps Unionists will do the same - you can draw on 4 million, they can draw on 60 million. LOL"

Yeah, and there's 70 million of us in the diaspora. Me, I can legally move to Belfast anytime I like... And there are millions like me besides; foreign-born Irish citizens. And we won't have to 100% depopulate our countries to make it happen, either."

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

Anonymous said...

Paul said:

""Perhaps Unionists will do the same - you can draw on 4 million, they can draw on 60 million. LOL"

dream on m8 people in Britain couldn't give a monkeys and you no it."

So you say. There are millions on the mainland who support The Union, they just don't act like bar stool Irish Republicans - all piss and wind.

"maybe Glasgow, but that's full of Irish nationalists to.
check this out
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgN61IU8wLU&feature=related

plenty of heads there."

And yes, they'll all be queueing up to move to NI. Funny the way most of the traffic down the years has been from Catholic Ireland to The UK mainland, not the other way round. LOL

"also have you looked at the amount of unionists from the north going to British university's,.

not to mention people from the south swarming allover northern university's, Derry, Coleraine and queens in Belfast."

OK, education time Paul. It's true that many Unionists go to mainland universities never to return. In other words they leave Ulster at 18. On the other hand many Nationalists go to Ulster universities BUT THEN THEY LEAVE AFTER THEY QUALIFY, because there are limited graduate opportunities in Ulster. In other words they leave Ulster at 21. The net demographic result is neutral.

"as i say its is really only going one way, Derry City Council is completely dominated by nationalists and belfast council is heading the same way."

The only things that matter are how people would vote in any border poll, combined with the attitudes of The ROI and The UK to Irish Unity in practice not in theory. I have absolutely no worries there.

"which way do you reckon its heading, I'd just take a leaf out of horseman's book and just sit back and enjoy the show."

The only thing I'm enjoying is the impotent rantings of Irish dreamers like you. Some day over the rainbow...

Paddy Canuck said...

"I didn't say it wasn't possible in the same way that The UK could become a US State"

You mean that's NOT the plan? Jesus, even WE didn't send anyone to Iraq...

"It is reserved under The Belfast Agreement"

First of all, where in the Belfast Agreement does it explicitly state that immigration is a reserved power? Answer: nowhere. It maybe be implied, since it's not mentioned as a transfer power; however, you're wrong when you say:

"...could only be transferred if agreed by both communities and The UK State."

That's incorrect. According to the Agreement, this could be done quite simply:

"27. The Assembly will have authority to legislate in reserved areas with the approval of the Secretary of State and subject to Parliamentary control."

and

32. Role of Secretary of State:
(b) to approve and lay before the Westminster Parliament any Assembly legislation on reserved matters;


...in other words, by fiat of the national government, as it was done in Canada re: Quebec.

Hopeless, huh? Nobody who can read is actually 'hopeless'. Can you read, old boy? :)

"LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL"

Wow, what a stellar rebuttal. What else do you have in your bag of rhetorical magic, a "Sez you!"?

Paddy Canuck said...

"OK, education time Paul. It's true that many Unionists go to mainland universities never to return. In other words they leave Ulster at 18. On the other hand many Nationalists go to Ulster universities BUT THEN THEY LEAVE AFTER THEY QUALIFY, because there are limited graduate opportunities in Ulster. In other words they leave Ulster at 21. The net demographic result is neutral."

No, that's not correct. Education time, as you say:

If you and I both have, say, 10 of something... and you lose 2, and I acquire 2 but then lose them again, when all is said and done, I still have 10. But you now have only 8... Even in the "New Math", that's not neutral.

"I have absolutely no worries there."

So how come you're here arguing the point instead of off singing about how many kinds of sweet flowers grown in an English country, err, Northern Irish garden?

Anonymous said...

"So how come you're here arguing the point instead of off singing about how many kinds of sweet flowers grown in an English country, err, Northern Irish garden?"

Because he's a lunatic. Andy hates blacks, Muslims, Irish, gays, gypsies, East Europeans, Asians... I'm glad he's not on my side. I'd be ashamed if he agreed with us.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:

"Because he's a lunatic. Andy hates blacks, Muslims, Irish, gays, gypsies, East Europeans, Asians... I'm glad he's not on my side. I'd be ashamed if he agreed with us."

Who's Andy you thick Irish bastard?

Horseman said...

Anonymous (you know who you are),

I have edited your comment, as below. Don't be abusive in future, or I'll simply delete the comment entirely.

"Anonymous said:

"Because he's a lunatic. Andy hates blacks, Muslims, Irish, gays, gypsies, East Europeans, Asians... I'm glad he's not on my side. I'd be ashamed if he agreed with us."

Who's Andy [redacted]?

Wiz said...

Have you seen Andy's latest anti-Irish rant on ATW yet. You couldn't make this guy up. It really angers him that there's large Nationalist minority in the North. He can't seem to get that St. Paddy's is more a celebration of Ireland and Irishness. His bigotry is astounding it really is.

paul said...

Anonymous said..."BUT THEN THEY LEAVE AFTER THEY QUALIFY"

your not allowed to just make things up, you haven't backed up one word you have said since you started posting on this blog.

And when you make comments like 'potato republic' we know your beat, easy street.

Anonymous said...

Paul said:

""Anonymous said..."BUT THEN THEY LEAVE AFTER THEY QUALIFY"

your not allowed to just make things up, you haven't backed up one word you have said since you started posting on this blog.

And when you make comments like 'potato republic' we know your beat, easy street."

You amuse me Paul. Everything I say is available in the public domain. I don't see it worth my while to produce for you chapter and verse. Use Google.

Your problem is that you see these discussions as a political 'knock about' - I say this, you say that, etc, etc, etc and political realities regarding the likelihood of an independent united Ireland don't come into it. Unfortunately for you and those like you, the real world doesn't work like that.

Facts like:

(i) Where would The Irish State get the cash to fund Northern Nationalists to the style of living they've become accustomed to?

(ii) What level of Loyalist violence would The Irish State be prepared to endure in the event of a UK withdrawal from NI?

(iii) How are you going to cope with the seemingly endless opposition to a UI by between 1/2 and 1/3 of Northern Catholics?

(iv) How are you going to persuade Catholic civil servants including PSNI officers that their careers will be left intact following Irish unity?

I could go on and on, but no doubt you'd respond with more knock about drivel. The truth is that The Belfast Agreement was a de facto surrender by militant Irish Nationalism and it was only that militancy that kept NI on Westminster's radar at all. The war is over. You can continue to fantasise about Irish Unity from here to eternity and articulate it's odds accordingly, but you will die in a UK state.

Anonymous said...

"...Who's Andy [redacted]?"

You don't know who he is, but you crack the bap when you're accused of being him anyway haha.

He's some guy from Yorkshire who has a better insight into the minds of Irish nationalists than the Irish Nationalists themselves. See Anon's post at 22.34.

hoboroad said...

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/breaking-news/uk-ireland/bradford-least-attractive-city-14730033.html

Paddy Canuck said...

"Everything I say is available in the public domain. I don't see it worth my while to produce for you chapter and verse. Use Google."

No, why don't YOU use Google? There's nothing in Horseman's setup that prevents you posting URLs. You're making the claim -- put up or shut up. Don't go chasing the rest of us off to do YOUR homework.

"Where would The Irish State get the cash to fund Northern Nationalists to the style of living they've become accustomed to?"

I've asked the question before... what is it about the life in Northern Ireland that's A) so profligate that it can't support itself and needs to suck England's life's blood (golden toilet paper?), and B) why suppose Ulster is more of a draw in this regard than, say, rural Galway, or Cork?

"What level of Loyalist violence would The Irish State be prepared to endure in the event of a UK withdrawal from NI?"

How much violence has Britain put up with without walking away? And they don't even have the dream of reuniting a nation to steel their resolve.

"How are you going to cope with the seemingly endless opposition to a UI by between 1/2 and 1/3 of Northern Catholics?"

By not requiring there BE a united Ireland until such people express the will. That should be manifestly obviously by now.

"How are you going to persuade Catholic civil servants including PSNI officers that their careers will be left intact following Irish unity?"

Why do you suppose this is a stumbling block? Were the careers of the men in the Castle and the RIC a stumbling block to the establishment of the Free State?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:

"You don't know who he is, but you crack the bap when you're accused of being him anyway haha.

He's some guy from Yorkshire who has a better insight into the minds of Irish nationalists than the Irish Nationalists themselves. See Anon's post at 22.34."

Well, I've no insight into the thinking of your hero Andy, but I base all my analysis on concrete data such as opinion polls and an assessment of human nature and that of political leaders. The alternative would be to listen to anecdotal crap from people like you - which means sweet FA.

Ehhhh Bahhhh Gummmm...

paul said...

"Everything I say is available in the public domain."

anyone can say things like that and then say just Google it, anyway I'm glad i amuse you mate..

Anonymous said...

Paddy Canuck Said:

""Where would The Irish State get the cash to fund Northern Nationalists to the style of living they've become accustomed to?"

I've asked the question before... what is it about the life in Northern Ireland that's A) so profligate that it can't support itself and needs to suck England's life's blood (golden toilet paper?), and B) why suppose Ulster is more of a draw in this regard than, say, rural Galway, or Cork?"

You haven't answered the question Paddy. Currently NI is subsidised to the tune of at least £3 billion per year. Where is The ROI going to get that cash from? It ends up somewhere in NI in the pockets of people in NI or in the services they receive. The ROI would have to either raise taxes radically across Ireland, cut services North and South or borrow the money (hardly likely I'd say). Even The EU wouldn't be wild about adding into the pot, they've other poor nations to subsidise now, as opposed to when Ireland was dragged into the first world.

""What level of Loyalist violence would The Irish State be prepared to endure in the event of a UK withdrawal from NI?"

How much violence has Britain put up with without walking away? And they don't even have the dream of reuniting a nation to steel their resolve."

What a comic you are Paddy and one who doesn't realise the joke's on him. It took forty thousand soldiers and policemen to control half a million Nationalists in NI, which suggests The Irish would need eighty thousand soldiers and policemen to control a million Unionists. Ireland currently has a joke army of about ten thousand infantry, who have never seen action - perhaps they'll introduce conscription? LOL.

""How are you going to persuade Catholic civil servants including PSNI officers that their careers will be left intact following Irish unity?"

Why do you suppose this is a stumbling block? Were the careers of the men in the Castle and the RIC a stumbling block to the establishment of the Free State?"

No they weren't, because they were heavily outnumbered and so their views didn't matter. A lot of them cleared off following partition. This contrasts with the situation in Ulster, where the votes of Catholics in The PSNI etc. would actually matter and would help secure The Union.

Paddy Canuck said...

"Currently NI is subsidised to the tune of at least £3 billion per year. Where is The ROI going to get that cash from?"

Relieved of the burden of seeing huge bails of their tax dollars... er, pounds... well, euros... siphoned off to pay for nuclear weapons, Trident submarines, aircraft carriers, and support for a flagging American empire in two foreign wars, I'm reasonably sure fiscal benefits would accrue to the Northern people of a united Ireland, leaving the Republic to come up with far less to make up the shortfall imperial projects require. Certainly other economies could be found by anyone with a little creating thinking who isn't cowed into refusing to use it by the implications.

"What a comic you are Paddy"

Can you actually make a point without prefacing it with an ad hominem attack? Say what you've got to say and leave my comedic skills to the estimations of others.

"The Irish would need eighty thousand soldiers and policemen to control a million Unionists."

Oh, I don't think so. As you pointed out further on: "they were heavily outnumbered and so their views didn't matter. A lot of them cleared off"
Problem solved.