NI 100: Majority believes NI will leave UK within 25 years

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A majority of people on both sides of the Irish border believes Northern Ireland will have left the UK within 25 years, a poll suggests.

Most respondents said they thought NI would still be part of the UK in 10 years time, but not in 25 years.

In NI, 49% of people said if there was a border poll today they would vote to remain in the UK, with 43% backing a united Ireland and 8% undecided.

The poll was commissioned by BBC NI's Spotlight programme.

In the Republic of Ireland, where a vote would have to be held in parallel with any border poll in Northern Ireland, 51% said they would vote for a United Ireland, 27% would vote for Northern Ireland to stay in the UK and 22% were not sure.

  • You can watch a discussion exploring the issues raised and delving further into the results of the cross-border opinion poll on the BBC News NI website and the BBC iPlayer

When asked if they thought NI woud be part of the UK in 10 years, 55% in NI and 59% in the Republic of Ireland said they thought it would be.

But when asked if this would be the case in 25 years, 51% of people in NI and 54% in the Republic said NI would have left the UK.

The poll also suggested that only 40% of people in Northern Ireland saw its formation 100 years ago as a cause for celebration.

Most people on both sides of the Irish border believed there was a potential for a return to political violence in Northern Ireland, according to the poll.

The poll was carried out over the Easter period when clashes were taking place in a number of areas across Northern Ireland, sparked by loyalist anger over the Northern Ireland trade protocol and the Police Service of Northern Ireland's handling of a republican funeral during the pandemic.

Of those surveyed in Northern Ireland, 76% agreed with the proposition that "the dispute over Northern Ireland's status remains unresolved and there is still a potential for violence in the future".

In the Republic, an even higher proportion, 87%, echoed that view.

A total of 48% of those surveyed in Northern Ireland told the pollsters they want the controversial trade protocol introduced as part of the UK's EU Withdrawal Agreement scrapped, in line with demands from the DUP and other unionist parties, while 46% wanted the protocol to be retained.

Unionists have claimed the protocol, which requires checks on goods moving across the Irish Sea from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, threatens the constitutional integrity of the UK.

Interviewed for the Spotlight programme, Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Micheál Martin insisted the protocol was not tearing the UK apart, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was working to "sandpaper" away what he described as the "ludicrous barriers" to trade across the Irish Sea.

Media caption,
Boris Johnson pledges to end "ludicrous barriers" Between Great Britain and Northern Ireland

In the Republic, a majority of those surveyed supported the Irish government's defence of the trade protocol, with 74% saying it should not be scrapped.

Although within Northern Ireland a larger number of people rejected the trade protocol than backed it, the poll also provided an indication that a majority wants to retain some form of economic link with the EU.

Some 56% of those surveyed in Northern Ireland told the pollsters that they wanted their assembly members (MLAs) to vote to stay within the EU Single Market when the matter is put to a vote at Stormont in three years' time.

Only 38% indicated they wanted to leave the EU Single Market.

In Northern Ireland 37% of people surveyed told the pollsters they would like to see a border poll within the next five years, whilst a further 29% want it to happen at some point after that.

However the prime minister told the Spotlight programme that he cannot see any Northern Ireland secretary considering a border poll for a "very, very long time to come".

The prime minister told BBC Northern Ireland that as "a proud unionist" he views the centenary of Northern Ireland's formation as a cause for celebration.

However only 40% of the people surveyed agreed with the proposition that "the formation of Northern Ireland 100 years ago was an achievement which should be celebrated", while 45% disagreed with the statement.

Outright celebration of the centenary turned out to be the least popular of five options included in the survey.

In Northern Ireland, 48% agreed that the partition of Ireland and the creation of a land border 100 years ago was "a negative development which should be regretted".

A total of 50% wanted to concentrate on current challenges such as the Covid pandemic rather than the centenary, whilst 61% backed marking Northern Ireland's formation in a neutral manner acknowledging the differing opinions on the subject.

The same proportion, 61%, agreed with the statement "Northern Ireland's history is not just about constitutional politics and the centenary should provide an opportunity to showcase its sporting, business, scientific and cultural achievements".

In the Republic, celebrating the formation of Northern Ireland was even more unpopular with just 12% agreeing with the proposition.

The most popular options were marking this year's centenary in a neutral manner, which was favoured by 74% of those surveyed and regretting partition - a view 71% agreed with.

The poll commissioned by BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme was carried out by the NI Pollsters LucidTalk and the Irish polling firm Ireland Thinks.

  • In Northern Ireland polling was carried out online between 5 and 7 April and 2,845 responses were used for the analysis.
  • In the Republic of Ireland polling took place between 6 and 9 April and 1,088 responses were analysed. A small amount of fieldwork was carried out in the Republic of Ireland on 10 April.

The margin of error is +/- 2.5%.

The results from a number of other questions in the survey regarding what should happen to the Irish flag, national anthem, the Stormont Executive and the health service in the event of a United Ireland will be released on BBC Northern Ireland's political programme The View on Thursday night.

Full details of the poll will be available via the BBC NI news website and other BBC news and current affairs programmes during the course of the week.

View the full, detailed results for Northern Ireland here and the Republic of Ireland here.

You can watch Spotlight - A Contested Centenary and The View on the BBC iPlayer.

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