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Southern voters lukewarm on idea of unionist vice-president in united Ireland, study finds

Research shows strong tendency across both communities in the North to identify as Northern Irish

Voters in the Republic are lukewarm on the idea of a unionist vice-president as a possible constitutional change in the event of a united Ireland.

Less than a quarter of voters (22 per cent) said they supported the idea when it was put to them, with just under a third (32 per cent) saying they were opposed. However, 34 per cent said they would “like to know more about this idea before coming to a view”.

The suggestion was among those made to voters during research for the North and South series for The Irish Times and Analysing and Researching Ireland North and South (Arins), which is a joint project of the Royal Irish Academy and the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Voters in Northern Ireland and the Republic were asked their attitudes to a series of questions about a possible future united Ireland and related issues – including potential constitutional changes that could follow a Yes vote in both jurisdictions in referendums on Irish unity.


In this instance, voters were asked if they agreed with the idea of a vice-president who must hold both Irish and British citizenship, in an effort to help make people in Northern Ireland who identify as British feel as included as possible in a united Ireland. But southern voters were lukewarm on the idea.

poll monday
poll monday

There was greater support for the idea in Northern Ireland where 36 per cent said they were in favour, while 19 per cent disagreed. Over a quarter (26 per cent) said they would like to know more.

Southern voters were more open to another idea: changing the Seanad to make it more inclusive of unionists. In this instance, it was suggested to respondents that the current system where the taoiseach appoints 11 senators should be changed to allow the president and new vice-president to appoint the 11 senators, with a view to ensuring that they are inclusive of the whole island.

Just over a third (34 per cent) of southerners agreed with this idea, with a similar proportion (35 per cent) wanting to know more. Just under a fifth (19 per cent) were opposed.

Support was much stronger in the North, where 44 per cent agreed and just 12 per cent disagreed.

The research also suggested that voters from a Protestant background in Northern Ireland were unlikely to identify as European. There was, however, a strong tendency across both communities in the North to identify as Northern Irish.

The opinion polls are part of the North and South series, a research collaboration between Arins and The Irish Times which examines attitudes in both Northern Ireland and the Republic to a possible future united Ireland and related issues. This is the second year of the collaboration.

The simultaneous, identical polls were taken by Ipsos B&A in the Republic and Ipsos in Northern Ireland, which conducted in-home interviews with over 1,000 voters in each jurisdiction. The margin of error in each is estimated to be +/-3.1 per cent.

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Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times