90% of loyalists say united Ireland vote risks return of violence

More than 2,000 people from Northern Ireland and the Republic were asked if they thought peace would be jeopardised.
90% of loyalists say united Ireland vote risks return of violence

By Cate McCurry, PA

Some 90 per cent of unionists and loyalists fear a united Ireland could spark a return of violence in Northern Ireland, a poll has found.

The poll, which coincides with the centenary of the creation of Northern Ireland, found a significant majority of people on both sides of the border believe peace will be compromised by a united Ireland.

More than 2,000 people from the North and the Republic were asked if they thought peace would be jeopardised by the prospect of unification, in a poll commissioned by the Sunday Life and Sunday Independent.

In Northern Ireland, 68 per cent of people said yes, while in the Republic, the figure was 62 per cent.

The results show that while the overwhelming majority of loyalists and unionists were convinced that peace would be compromised, 24 per cent of nationalists and republicans in the North and 17 per cent of people in south of the border disagreed.

A sample of 1,500 adults over the age of 18 in the Republic and 750 in Northern Ireland were interviewed for the poll, run in conjunction with Kantar.

On Brexit, people were asked what effect it would have on a united Ireland, and a majority on both sides of the border — 58 per cent in Northern Ireland and 57 per cent in the Republic — believed it could accelerate unity.

An anti-Brexit billboard proposing a united Ireland at the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland
An anti-Brexit billboard proposing a united Ireland at the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

Asked whether a 50 per cent-plus-one majority would be enough to carry a vote on a united Ireland in any future border poll, 31 per cent in the Northern Ireland and 38 per cent in the Republic agreed.

In the North, 38 per cent believed a two-thirds majority was needed, compared to 36 per cent in the Republic.

Some 36 per cent of people in the Republic believed a 70 per cent majority should be required in such a poll.

People on both sides of the Irish border are polarised over the contentious issue of amnesties for paramilitaries, according to the opinion poll.

The survey suggests that a majority of people across the island back the setting up of a truth and reconciliation commission to deal with the past during the Troubles.

A question posed in the survey was whether people believed “there should be an amnesty on any acts of violence by paramilitary groups linked to the Troubles which were still being investigated”.

In Northern Ireland, only 31 per cent of people who were questioned agreed, while 38 per cent were opposed to the move.

The breakdown of the figures showed that 49 per cent of unionists and loyalists were against an amnesty, while 40 per cent of nationalists and republicans were in favour of one.

The results showed that opposition to an amnesty was higher among older people who had lived through the worst of the Troubles than among younger people.

In the Republic, 40 per cent of people supported an amnesty, while 26 per cent opposed one.

Turning to an amnesty for members of the security forces, some 41 per cent of people in Northern Ireland people agreed, while 29 per cent disagreed.

In the Republic, the figures were 37 per cent for and 31 per cent against.

People were also asked whether they would support a truth and reconciliation commission in Northern Ireland to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

Some 64 per cent of people north and south of the border said they are in favour of a commission and only a small number in each area are opposed to one.

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