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Protestant voters in NI strongly opposed to use of Tricolour for united Ireland - poll

Findings suggest views about the flag are somewhat entrenched, and may be hard to change

Voters from a Protestant background in Northern Ireland have very negative views about the Irish national flag, the Tricolour, and are strongly opposed to its use as the flag of a new united Ireland, should that happen in the future.

Voters in the Republic, however, are overwhelmingly in favour of retaining the Tricolour as the national flag of a new united Ireland, as are those from a Catholic background in the North.

The findings are part of the latest wave of research for the Irish Times/ARINS North and South series which seeks to examine attitudes among voters in Northern Ireland and the Republic to flags, emblems, symbols, the Commonwealth, and their role in a possible new united Ireland.

It also seeks to investigate how those attitudes might be open to change by presenting the issues to respondents in two different ways.


In this instalment of the series, respondents in Northern Ireland and the Republic were both split into two groups and were asked about their attitudes to the Tricolour and to another Irish national emblem – the shamrock.

On the flag, one group in each jurisdiction was reminded of its symbolic message, of peace between orange and green factions. The other was told about its republican heritage and reminded that it was “flown during the 1916 Easter Rising and in the Irish War of Independence against British rule”.

However, unlike on some other issues, views on the flag were not significantly affected by the framing of the question – suggesting that views are somewhat entrenched, and may be hard to change.

While the Republic’s voters and northern Catholics view the flag very positively and are strongly of the view that it should be retained as the flag of a new united Ireland, voters from a Protestant background in the North are strongly negative towards it.

But Northern Ireland voters from neither a Catholic nor a Protestant background – while leaning towards replacing it – are significantly less negative about the Tricolour.

The opinion polls are part of the North and South series, a research collaboration between ARINS and The Irish Times. ARINS, Analysing and Researching Ireland North and South, is a joint project of the Royal Irish Academy and the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame. This is the second year of the collaboration between The Irish Times and ARINS.

Two simultaneous, identical polls were taken by Ipsos B&A in the Republic and Ipsos in Northern Ireland, who conducted in-home interviews with more than 1,000 voters in each jurisdiction last year. 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