More people in Northern Ireland want Irish sea border removed than retained, poll finds

More people in Northern Ireland want the Irish Sea border scrapped than want it retained, a new poll for the BBC has found.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 7:01 am
Artist Brian John Spencer’s take on Boris Johnson’s claim to last night’s Spotlight programme that he is trying to “sandpaper” the protocol he agreed

A second poll commissioned by academics at Queen’s University Belfast found that more people believe the Northern Ireland Protocol – which creates that sea border – is bad for Northern Ireland than believe it is good.

However, both polls point to a deeply divisive situation created by Brexit and not solved by the protocol.

Both polls were conducted by the same company, Belfast firm LucidTalk.

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The first poll, for Queen’s, found that 43% of people think the protocol is good for Northern Ireland, while 44% think it is bad.

A vaguer question about whether particular arrangements are necessary for Northern Ireland as a result of Brexit found greater support (65%) for the idea that Northern Ireland cannot be treated identically to the rest of the UK in every area.

Just over half – 57% – of respondents to the March poll said that they would like to see the UK align more closely with the EU in order to lessen the impact of the sea border.

However, there are striking contradictions in the poll findings. Even though 44% of people said the protocol was bad for Northern Ireland, 47% said they wanted MLAs to vote to extend it when Stormont gets to vote on the Irish Sea border for the first time in 2024.

Similarly, 70% of respondents claimed to have ‘a good understanding’ of the protocol, even though just 37% said that reliable information on the protocol is available.

The research also found an extreme lack of confidence in either London, Dublin or Brussels to deal with Northern Ireland fairly – but a particularly devastating finding for Boris Johnson’s administration.

Only 5% or respondents have any trust in the UK government being able to manage the effects of the protocol in Northern Ireland, only 15% trust the Stormont Executive and just 19% trust the UK-EU Joint Committee

Meanwhile, another LucidTalk poll, for BBC Spotlight, found that more people want the protocol scrapped than want it retained – 48% to 46%, with the remainder unsure.

In the Republic, 74% said they wanted the protocol retained and just 10% thought it should be removed.

The poll, which was conducted over Easter, found that 76% of people in Northern Ireland believe that violence could return; in the Republic even more people – 87% – think violence could return.

Over recent years Lucid Talk polls have consistently found the highest support for Irish unity.

This poll found that 43% would support a united Ireland while 49% support the Union and 8% are unsure.

DUP leader Arlene Foster told the programme that if there is a united Ireland it will only be well into the future – when she will be “long gone”.

However, the poll found that a majority of people surveyed – 51% – do not think Northern Ireland will be within the Union in 25 years’ time; just 37% of people think Northern Ireland will still be British at that point.

Just 40% of those polled in Northern Ireland agreed that the centenary should be celebrated, while 45% said that it should not – the rest did not know. The greatest support was for recognising the sporting and cultural achievements of those from Northern Ireland.

In the south, just 12% said that the centenary should be celebrated, while 50% said that it should not be a cause for celebration.

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