Was the British Minister Theresa May onto something a few weeks ago when she indicated to some of her Conservative Party colleagues that their hardline attitudes on Brexit could lead to a successful reunification referendum in Britain’s legacy colony on the island of Ireland? Yesterday’s publication of a surprisingly detailed Lucid Talk – YouGov poll for the BBC seems to lend some weight to that informed opinion, with 42.1% of those surveyed in the UK-administered Six Counties supporting the end of partition while 45% opposed it (12.7% declared themselves undecided).
While accurate polling in the contested region is notoriously difficult to achieve, even after two decades of relative peace, Lucid Talk seems quite confident about its figures. These include the headline grabbing claim that 58.6% of respondents identified themselves as being “fairly or very strongly” Irish while only 46.7% felt the same about being British. Drilling down into those numbers, the questionnaire found that on the complex and layered question of formal nationality, 52.2% singled out Irish, Irish and Northern Irish, and Northern Irish as their primary national groups, while 46.7% felt they belonged to groups classed as British and Irish, British and Northern Irish, and British alone. Hardly a ringing endorsement for continued rule from London and quite possibly further evidence of the need to hold a so-called “border poll” or plebiscite on reunification sooner rather than later.
However, caveat emptor. As I indicated above, in the north-eastern region of this island nation still under foreign occupation, a place formerly scarred by decades of war, totalitarianism and segregation, political surveys must be treated with a great deal of caution (if not outright suspicion). None of these polls come entirely value-free and none are guaranteed to overcome old communal admonitions to hold one’s opinions to oneself. Furthermore, if you go beyond the main results you find all sorts of contradictory and not quite clear indicators of where public opinion in the Six Counties may be heading. Some of this is positive, some of this is fairly debatable.
You can read the full report in PDF format here: May 2018 – Northern Ireland Tracker Poll LucidTalk Tracker Poll (Northern Ireland – NI) Results Report.