Support abides for armed struggle

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Seven in ten nationalists in the north of Ireland accept there was “no alternative” to the “violent resistance” of republican armed groups to British rule, according to an opinion poll.

The survey, by respected pollster LucidTalk, has boosted calls for a referendum on Irish reunification, with a majority in the Six Counties confirmed as supporting Irish unity in the medium term.

In the opinion poll for the Belfast Telegraph, 69% of those in the nationalist and republican community believe “violent resistance to British rule during the Troubles” was the only option at the time, with just 25% disagreeing.

Excluding don’t knows, that means almost three in four nationalists understand the cause of the armed struggle.

The question followed a controversy this month over comments made in an interview by Sinn Féin First Minister-designate Michelle O’Neill.

Ms O’Neill, whose father was an IRA prisoner, said one of her earliest memories was the sound of British Army vehicles outside her family home as it was being raided.

“I don’t think any Irish person ever woke up one morning and thought that conflict was a good idea, but the war came to Ireland,” she said. “I think at the time there was no alternative, but now, thankfully, we have an alternative to conflict and that’s the Good Friday Agreement.”

The result of the poll reflects the increased availability of information about the history of the British occupation in the North. Almost four in five younger voters who expressed a preference said there was no alternative to armed resistance, while six in 10 over-45s also agreed.

It is no coincidence that Sinn Féin also now command 30% support in the Six Counties, a high for the party, while support for their pacifist rivals in the SDLP has fallen to an all time low of just 7%.

Irish reunification also received a boost when the poll confirmed a surge in support for unity, with 52% backing unification within the next 15 to 20 years. The result is in line with other recent surveys, as well as the outcome of the recent Assembly election in which parties supporting reunification outpolled unionist parties for the first time.

A clear majority of people in the north of Ireland also said they support the protocol to prevent a hard border through the island, a blow to unionist efforts to overturn the policy. Less than a third of voters support the DUP position of wanting it scrapped. Jeffrey Donaldson’s party have demanded the removal of the so-called ‘Irish Sea Border’ before they will allow the resumption of powersharing in Belfast.

Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has welcomed the latest demonstration of growing support for Irish unity.

Commenting on findings from the LucidTalk poll, the North Belfast MP said:

“Yet another poll shows growing support for Irish unity across the island, particularly among young people.

“The reality is that conversation on the constitutional future of our island is to the fore of political discourse like never before. Planning and preparation must start now.

“The Irish government should lead those preparations by immediately establishing a Citizens’ Assembly on Irish unity to help shape the new Ireland.

“Sinn Féin will begin a people’s conversation from October. We want to hear from everybody on their views on the future. The onus is on the Irish government to prepare for referendums and reunification without any more delays.”

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