The price of Brexit? Support for United Ireland SOARS after border talks chaos

Posted on Dec 29 2017 - 7:46am by admin

A unified Ireland, with Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom and rejoining the Republic of Ireland, has risen in popularity in the Republic of Ireland through the last nine months of 2017.

A new poll of citizens in the Republic has seen support for unification increase by a huge margin – even if Dublin was presented with an annual tax bill of £8 billion to cover the cost. 

Financial concerns in Dublin has often been seen as a barrier to unification, which also crucially rests on support north, rather than south, of the border. 

Pollsters Ireland Thinks interviewed 1,144 people in the Republic of Ireland between December 14 and 22 with results in staggering contrast to those recorded earlier this year. 

In a similar poll in March, when undecided respondents were excluded, support for unification was at exactly 50:50 between those in favour and those against. 

However after nine months in which Irish politicians and citizens have watched, first in bafflement and then in frustration, as British negotiators fumbled the border issue, support has risen. 

Following a new poll this month, 60 per cent of respondents are now in favour of unification with just 40 per cent against, when undecideds are again excluded. 

In their poll for the Irish Daily Mail, Ireland Thinks asked respondents: “If it cost the Irish government €9 billion per annum for Northern Ireland to unite with the Republic of Ireland, how would you vote in relation to a referendum on a United Ireland?”

When excluding undecideds, every demographic reported a surge in support for a United Ireland between March and December. 

The approval of men aged under 44 grew from 51 to 72 while women in the same age bracket also saw support grow from 54 to 60. 

The older generations also saw support bloom from 45 to 56 for men aged 45 and over, and from 49 to 55 for women of the same age bracket. 

While revealing the results, Ireland Thinks said Britain’s alternately clumsy, naive and aggressive Brexit negotiations appear to have “galvanised” support for a united Ireland. 

Dr Kevin Cunningham of Ireland Thinks said: “The fiery Brexit negotiations appear to have galvanised support for a united Ireland in (the Republic of) Ireland. The change since March reflects a decline in the number of people that are undecided on the issue. 

“Unification is of course conditional on Ireland accepting Northern Ireland. In this context it is crucial for Ireland to accept some of the initial costs of such a unification. That is Ireland’s ability and willingness to replace the annual subvention received by Northern Ireland.”

It comes after a number of British politicians claimed Dublin was deliberately exploiting the negotiations for a number of reasons, including scoring points ahead of a presidential election, which is largely symbolic, and preventing Sinn Fein from gaining voters Fianna Fail or Fine Gael, which makes little sense given Ireland’s often-rigid political landscape. 

In response, Leo Varadkar, the Republic of Ireland’s taoiseach (prime minister), said himself Dublin had no “hidden agenda” during the fraught negotiations this month. 

Speaking after an agreement on border assurances was finally reached between Dublin, Stormont, Westminster and Brussels, he said: “I want to assure you that the Irish Government has no hidden agenda.

“There is no question of us exploiting Brexit as a means of moving to a united Ireland without consent.

“We do not want to see a border in the Irish Sea, any more than we want to see a border between Newry and Dundalk or between Letterkenny and Derry.

“We want to build bridges, not borders.”

Partition was introduced in Ireland in 1921, splitting the island into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, which later became the Irish Free State and eventually the Republic of Ireland. 

The Good Friday Agreement means a binding referendum on unification can be held if it gains sufficient support in Northern Ireland. 

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