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David over at A Tangled Web for pointing out the publication of the 2004 Northern Ireland Life & Times Survey today. The results, true to form, show only a 22% in Northern Ireland for "Irish Unificiation" (aka the annexing of the remainder of Ulster by the territory-hungry Irish Republic). Even among Catholics, only 47% support unification! Yes that's less than half of less than half the population!
In the past 5 annual surveys published between 2000 and 2004, respondents to a question regarding what they thought long-term policy for Northern Ireland should be the responses have averaged out as follows:
- maintainance of Northern Ireland's position as part of the United Kingdom - 55.8%
- creation of an all-island state and becoming part of an Irish Republic - 22.6%
- creation of a sovereign independent Ulster/Northern Ireland - 8%
All of which really begs the question - what are Sinn Fein fighting for? And how on earth have Unionists managed to lose the PR battle so convincingly?
This issue didn't actually feature in this year's survey, but I was interested in last year's questions regarding the respondents' perceived nationalities.
Comparing last year's survey (2003) with the last survey in which this question was asked (2001), the results (where multiple answers were allowed) were as follows:
- British 49% - (+4%)
- Irish 30% - (+/- 0%)
- Northern Irish 33% - (+6%)
- Ulster 11% - (+2%)
Personally I'm glad to see the big increase in Northern Irish as it's good to see a local identity thriving. This is particularly obvious in 18-24 year olds where it reaches as high as 42%!
Where respondents were asked to pick one nationality respondents chose:
- British - 41% (+2%)
- Irish 27% (+/-0%)
- Northern Irish 24% (+2%)
Something else that was clear is that older people are much more likely to feel British, while younger people opt more for Irish or Northern Irish. While a tad alarming at first, this probably isn't anything to worry about as it seems to be echoed across the UK.
Certainly my impression was always that younger people in Northern Ireland (unionist ones, anyway) are more likely to feel Northern Irish first and foremost. Let's face it, as far as we're concerned, Northern Ireland's been around 'forever'. When I was growing up, the thought of having some all-island state never even crossed my mind. It wasn't until I was in my mid-teens that I became aware that discontent at Ulsters constitutional position existed.
If my theory pans out, it will mean a lot more people feeling 'Northern Irish' and hopefully even Sinn Fein's claims of Northern Ireland being an 'artificial statelet' will have less and less credibility. At the same time, I should point out that not everyone who considers themselves Irish necessarily feels an allegiance to the Republic - more good news.
Rather than being on our way to an inevitable United Ireland, perhaps the longer Northern Ireland exists, the less reason people will see to get rid of it. Do we dare to dream the impossible dream?