The 2021 census data reported that for the first time the catholic population was the largest religious group in Northern Ireland. Unsurprisingly Sinn Fein immediately began the push for a border poll. There was lots of noise and then towards the end of 2021 it all went quiet.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the silence was a series of polls conducted by the Irish Times sampling views on the centenary of partition. The Irish Times polled voters both north and south of the border and the results showed that while the south would prefer a one state island ( 67%) the awkward sods in the north wouldn’t (35%).
The north wrestles with its own sets of issues but some of the more interesting data came from attitudes in the south. Setting aside the economic challenge of unification which should not be underestimated the more surprising aspects of the poll were how little voters in the Republic were prepared to compromise to accommodate the tetchy Nordies. No change of flag (77%), no change of anthem (72%), no rejoining the Commonwealth (71%) – indeed a disturbingly large number (42%) of RoI voters believe no unionist party should be allowed in government which in effect would disenfranchise 15% of the joint electorate. The finance side of it showed a gap with 67% of RoI voters wanting unity but only 22% prepared to pay more tax. Wait till they see the bill.
On this basis unity is a nice to have but RoI voters are not going to bust a gut.
The Irish Times political editor sums this up as , “ In the absence of reassurances that things will change for the better rather than the worse, politically and personally, [southern] voters are likely to follow their conservative instincts to retain the status quo.”
I can already hear the wails of English taxpayers.
.But if the English find understanding Ulster a minefield, they can cheer themselves up that the Republic has no better understanding; the Nordies do after all just speak a different language.