Pressure builds in Britain for Irish reunification
Pressure builds in Britain for Irish reunification


A former British Direct Ruler has said a referendum on Irish unity could happen in the next decade following a recent poll which confirmed that there is majority support in the north of Ireland — and every British constituent nation — for a united Ireland.

A new ‘State of the Union’ survey examined public attitudes on the constitutional future of the ‘United Kingdom’ on a scale of -10 to +10, where zero indicates no preference either way.

Asked if the Six Counties of the north of Ireland should unite with the rest of Ireland, voters in Scotland came out the strongest in favour at +1.9. Voters in England came in second at +0.9, and Welsh voters said they would be +0.6 in favour, while voters in the north of Ireland itself came in at +0.3.

A recent tide of polls has confirmed accelerating support for unity and have convinced one former British governor in Ireland to admit that “a way is being paved” to a unity vote.

Shaun Woodward (pictured), who was in office from 2007 to 2010, said such a ‘border poll’ could happen in the next decade, and that Sinn Féin are “effectively running the show”.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Woodward said the DUP have woken up to that reality.

“In the last Assembly elections they lost out to Sinn Fein. We are now looking at the First Minister coming from a nationalist party, not a unionist party. Huge things have changed. I think they woke up, smelt the coffee and Jeffrey Donaldson rightly realised that train had left the station.””

He added: “Sinn Fein are effectively running the show in every sense now. They are really focused on the big prize. And the big prize is a poll for Irish Unity. [British opposition leader] Keir Starmer has said if he becomes Prime Minister he doesn’t see that it’s on the horizon – so they’re not getting an amber or green light from the likely next prime minister. But on the other hand, as Harold Macmillan once said – when the facts change your opinions change”.

He said “a way is being paved” to a border poll. He said this was shown by Sinn Fein’s pragmatism on issues around the Irish Sea border.

“There is a direction of travel here, and you’d have to be foolish not to recognise that it is coming your way. And unionists should be preparing their case for unity.””

He said the poll numbers are “beginning to significantly change”.

“Now the job of the Secretary of State is to make a judgement call. That judgement call is beginning to put this onto the horizon. Keir Starmer has said it is not on the horizon, and ultimately it will be the prime minister – should be be the prime minister – who will make the choice.

“But you can’t ignore the facts. The facts are moving in a direction in which I think, within the next ten years – if that momentum continues – it would be the responsible thing – just as it was just a few years ago to have such a poll in Scotland”.

Powerful US politicians have also urged for talks on a united Ireland to get underway.

After the annual St Patrick’s Day visit by Irish leaders to Washington, Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal, who co-chairs the Friends of Ireland Caucus at Capitol Hill, said he believed that there’s a “discussion” happening within the political parties in Ireland and Britain.

“I think that there has to be a series of baked-in assurances - there would need to be no threat to any identities. I think that there would have to be some compromises again, along the way. But I think given the democratic nature of the Republic and Northern Ireland that the idea of a conversation is entirely appropriate.”

Caucus co-chair, House of Representatives member Mike Kelly, said the US would support Ireland “for what lies ahead”.

Congressman Brendan Boyle, who also sits on the caucus, said “proper planning and preparation” was vital ahead of a poll.

“I think the whole Brexit debacle is a great example of what not to do,” he said.

“What’s really important right now is for people in Dublin and Belfast, but also in Washington and London and Brussels, to talk about and work through all the possible scenarios, the ramifications, how best to prepare.”

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