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Support for a united Ireland dramatically increases

Support for a united Ireland has significantly increased in the Republic of Ireland as per a poll conducted by Ireland Thinks for the Irish Daily Mail. Voters were asked: 'If it cost the Irish government €9 billion per annum for Northern Ireland to unite with the Republic of Ireland, how would you vote in relation to a referendum on a United Ireland?'

Excluding undecideds a majority of 60 per cent would have no problem with the Irish government replacing the existing subvention to Northern Ireland with an annual fund of €9 million. This represents a significant change since March 2017 when the same question was asked.

The poll follows the intense period of Brexit negotiations conducted between the Irish Government and British Government with interjections by the DUP. Brexit has radically changed the debate about a united Ireland in Northern Ireland with recent polls conducted by LucidTalk and Ipsos MORI revealing dramatic increases in support for a united Ireland north of the border as well as a comfortable majority preferring a border poll within the next ten years.

Unification is of course conditional on Ireland accepting Northern Ireland. In this context it is crucial for Ireland to accept some of the initial costs of such a unification. That is Ireland's ability and willingness to replace the annual subvention received by Northern Ireland. The fiery Brexit negotiations appear to have galvanised support for a united Ireland in (the Republic of) Ireland. The change since March reflects a decline in the number of people that are undecided on the issue.

This change is particularly prominent among those aged 18 to 44 and even more so among males in this age group.

Polling on the topic of a United Ireland has typically taken one of two forms: Whether one supports a united Ireland (without conditions) and whether one would vote for a united Ireland if it led to an increase in taxation. The July 2016 RedC poll suggested support for a United Ireland was at 65 per cent. Such a majorities is consistent and typical. However usually this question is supplemented with a question on whether one would support a United Ireland if it meant “paying more tax”. In these situations the majority disappears. Typical of these figures, in the September 2016 B&A survey support falls to 32%. This is consistent with the 31% figure in the poll the previous November by B&A.

In March Ireland Thinks decided to address the magnitude of that burden rather than the unspecific ‘increase in taxation’. Indeed it might very well be the case that some of the shortfall required to make up for the annual subvention to Northern Ireland would be made up through borrowing or reduced services so it is difficult to assert any exact likely changes in taxation. Here we take a different approach by asking people about how they feel about the burden on the government.

In terms of the cost of unification we apply a rough estimate of €9 billion per annum as the initial cost of unification which we arrive at using the most recent estimates of the UK government budget accounts. The 2016 budget and forecasts for the next 5 years include an annual subvention from Westminster of £10 billion to account for the budget deficit in Northern Ireland. However, Northern Ireland’s expenditure includes £4 billion of Non-Identifiable Expenditure. That is, UK level that cannot be decomposed and is apportioned to the region (i.e. spending on defence). This would no longer be necessary in its entirety as the Republic of Ireland will already covers these costs. However, it is still unlikely that this would fall to zero as the overall costs of the army etc are still likely to rise somewhat. Indeed the most likely scenario is a federal system which would inherit additional costs. As such, we adopt a somewhat conservative position of £8 billion, halfway between, converting to €9 billion.

Ireland Thinks interviewed a random sample of 1,144 adults aged 18+ by telephone between Thursday 14th December and Friday 22nd December 2017. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results weighted to the profile of all adults based on their Age, Gender, Nuts 3 Region, Working Status, Tenure, Level of Educational attainment and Religious Attendance.

Our methodology is rigorous and compliant with ESOMAR standards. A random digit dial (RDD) method was used to sample telephone numbers this was to ensure a random selection of respondents were contacted. 80% of the sample was interviewed via their a mobile phone sample with the remainder drawn from a sample of landlines.To minimise non-response bias the poll was limited to 3 minutes to maximise the likelihood of completion. All non-responses were called multiple times to minimise the non-response rate.

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