A survey has shed new light on how Irish people from both the north and the south view the idea of united Ireland.
The results challenge many pre-conceived notions and show the issue doesn’t automatically follow simple lines of Catholics being in favour and Protestants being against.
Nearly two thirds of Irish people would like to see a united Ireland in their lifetimes, according to the figures.
However, the number reduces dramatically to just 30% when only Northern Ireland is taken into account.
The survey was conducted by RTE Prime Time and BBC Northern Ireland’s Nolan Live. They interviewed over 2,000 people – around 1,000 people on each side of the border.
The people surveyed were asked about a range of issues such as unification, abortion, and same-sex marriage.
It is the results in Northern Ireland that are perhaps the most surprising. For so long we have associated Catholics with Nationalists who want a united Ireland, while Protestants are loyal to the British and want to remain in the UK.
While the results show that overall this is still the case, it is not as emphatic as you might have thought.
Only 57% of Catholics in the North answered ‘yes’ they would like to see a united Ireland in their lifetime, while only 68% of Protestants answered ‘no’.
Over a third (36%) of Catholics in the Republic said they would like to see unification happen in the ‘short-medium term’ – a sentiment echoed by Catholics in the North at a slightly lower rate (27%).
The results also suggested that the country’s history wasn’t the only thing on people’s minds when weighing up the pros and cons of a united Ireland. Many people were thinking very much about the here and now.
Over 70% of people in the Republic said they would be in favour of unification if it meant paying less tax. However, less than a third of people in the North saw that as a priority.
Elsewhere, the survey revealed that people on either side of the border are not so different when it comes to their views on important social issues.
Around two thirds of people (67% in the Republic and 64% in the North) said they would ‘feel very or fairly comfortable’ if a member of their family married someone of the same gender.
Even more people responded positively to the idea of a family member marrying someone from a different ethnicity of religion, with 80% of people on both sides of the border saying they would ‘feel very or fairly comfortable’.
People in the Republic were slightly more tolerant of abortion. A fifth of people in the North said it should never be allowed, compared to 14% in the Republic.
Most people felt it should be allowed in ‘some circumstances’ – 64% in the Republic and 56% in the North. A quarter of people on both sides of the border said it should always be available.