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Most people expect NI to break away from the UK within 25 years

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-04-22 09:37

A person holds a British Union Jack flag, as pro-British unionists demonstrate near Parliament buildings in Belfast, Northern Ireland on April 8, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Most people on the island of Ireland believe the part that is within the United Kingdom will break away within 25 years.

The expectation that Northern Ireland will leave the union was revealed in a poll of people on both sides of the border; in the province itself, and in neighboring Republic of Ireland.

The poll, which was commissioned by BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight program, was carried out by the pollsters LucidTalk north of the border, and by Ireland Thinks in the south.

Of the 3,933 respondents quizzed online between April 5 and April 9, 51 percent of those in Northern Ireland and 54 percent of those in the republic said Northern Ireland will have left the UK in the coming quarter century.

Some 37 percent in Northern Ireland said they wanted a referendum to be held on the issue - a so-called border poll - in the coming five years.

But Boris Johnson, the UK's prime minister, said on the Spotlight program a Northern Ireland secretary within the British government would not allow such a poll for a "very, very long time to come".

Micheal Martin, the Republic of Ireland's prime minister, said on the same program that the Northern Ireland Protocol should not be blamed for any increase in sectarian tension. The protocol, which was part of the UK's Brexit withdrawal agreement and which attempts to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland by treating Northern Ireland in an different way to the rest of the UK, has been deeply unpopular with so-called unionists.

Johnson added that he was working hard to remove any "ludicrous barriers" to trade in Northern Ireland that have resulted from the protocol.

"What we're doing is removing what I think of as the unnecessary protuberances and barriers that have grown up and we're getting the barnacles off the thing and sandpapering it into shape," he said.

The survey showed that, were a border poll held today, 49 percent of people in Northern Ireland would vote to remain within the UK. Some 43 percent would support a united Ireland. And 8 percent were undecided.

If a poll was held in the Republic of Ireland, 27 percent would vote for Northern Ireland to remain within the UK, 51 percent would vote for a united Ireland. And 22 percent were undecided.

Johnson described himself on the program as "a proud unionist "and said he sees the 100 years of Northern Ireland's existence as a cause for celebration. However, in Northern Ireland itself, only 40 percent said its establishment was a cause for celebration.

The poll also shows most people on either side of the border believe the island could again be tortured by sectarian violence between factions wanting a united Ireland and those wanting a future within the UK.

Some 76 percent of respondents in Northern Ireland and 87 percent in the Republic of Ireland said they agreed with the statement that "the dispute over Northern Ireland's status remains unresolved and there is still a potential for violence in the future".

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