by Frank Schnittger
Fri Dec 10th, 2021 at 01:06:23 PM EST
Newton Emerson writes "The truly decisive outcome of this decade will be whether voters in the Republic see through a Sinn Féin government's unity posturing, or whether their frustration is directed towards unionists." (Nationalist timeframe for unity does not stack up, Opinion & Analysis, 9th. December).
For decades, the more extreme unionist parties have managed to shore up their voter base by scaring their voters into supporting them as otherwise "the other side" might win leading to a united Ireland. Now the boot is on the other foot and Sinn Fein are trying the same gambit, claiming a united Ireland is just around the corner if only voters would rally behind them.
Both the DUP and SF need inter-communal tensions to remain high, as otherwise the more moderate centrist parties might grow in support. It's all a game as "those in the know" know there is no majority for a change in the status quo right now, and even in the south, voters might think twice if asked to stump up the 12 Billion p.a. subvention the North currently receives from Westminster.
The confidence that a united Ireland might be closer, post Brexit, is not based on anything that is happening in Ireland right now, but on what has happened with the rise of English and Scottish nationalisms. If the UK government were to suffer a post Brexit economic collapse, they might think twice about paying the 12 Billion subsidy. It is, after all, greater than their erstwhile much-hated net contribution to the EU.
So, what would "soft unionist" voters do if the 12 Billion subsidy were to be substantially reduced? Would they accept an offer of 6 Billion from the south if the alternative was no subsidy at all? Coincidentally, the NHS budget for N. Ireland is currently about 7 Billion. Would unionists vote for a united Ireland if that was the only way they could retain the NHS?
Perhaps N. Ireland voters might also ponder whether the North's economy could grow as fast as the south and become independently viable if under similar governance? Either way, for the foreseeable future, a United Ireland will only come about when soft unionists realise they have no other option, and that depends on how long Britain can, and is willing to continue the subsidy.
Large majority of voters favour a united Ireland
A large majority of voters favour a united Ireland in the long term, but are opposed to a new national flag, a new national anthem, paying higher taxes or curtailing public spending to facilitate it, the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll has found.
Voters also say a united Ireland should be a long-term project, with only 15 per cent saying they want to see a referendum now and just 20 per cent describing it as “very important” and a “priority” for them. By contrast, 52 per cent of people say it is “not very important” to them, but they “would like to see it someday”.
The poll examined not just voting intention in a referendum on Irish unity, but also sought to probe the depth of commitment to the idea, the urgency voters attach to it and the attitude to steps which might be taken as part of a unity project.
The results suggest that support for Irish unity is broad – 62 per cent say they would vote in favour, with just 16 per cent opposed and 13 per cent saying they don’t know. Eight per cent say they would not vote.
As you might expect, a united Ireland is a most important issue for older and Sinn Fein voters, but only small minorities would accept a new flag, anthem, higher taxes, lower public services or rejoining the Commonwealth to facilitate this. Small majorities would accept closer ties with the UK and having Unionist politicians as part of the Dublin Government.
In short, Irish voters are overwhelmingly in favour of a united Ireland, but not necessarily now, and not if they have to pay for it or make concessions to accommodate unionists' British identity. By small margins, they are prepared to accept unionist politicians in the Dublin government and closer ties to the UK.
In even shorter terms, Irish people are prepared to allow Northern Ireland become part of Ireland, but not the other way around.