That Bel Tel poll

You may not wish to go so far as Jeremy Paxman and ask “Why is this lying bastard lying to me?” but it’s usually sensible, when receiving information, to ask where it’s coming from.  The most recent figures about the desirability or otherwise of the border come from The Belfast Telegraph, which  it’s fair to say has never been noted for its fiercely republican tone or content. Maybe worth tucking that fact at the back of your mind.
Now, what do they say?  Well, the pollsters asked people if they’d favour removal of the border tomorrow and they got 3.8% who said they would. Ask a silly question and you get a silly answer. Ask people “Would you, tomorrow, like to join with a bankrupt twenty-six counties while at the same time coping with loyalists who assault everything that moves because someone has told them their flag is being torn down?” The question is spectacularly daft. One comparison: the Scots, before being asked whether they favour Scottish independence, have been given a full two years in which to think about it. 
“Hah!” you say. “But the Tele also asks how many would vote for border abolition in twenty years’ time and only a quarter of respondents wanted it. So much for your time-to-think argument”.   Well, in ways the “Twenty years’ time” question is even more daft than the tomorrow question. Think of the difference in this state between 1963 and 1983; or between 1983 and 2003. “Events, dear boy, events” as Harold Macmillan used to say. A question about what you’d like to happen in the unimaginable distant future is nearly worse than asking about border abolition tomorrow. 
What we do need – all of us – is an open and informed debate about what a united Ireland would look like, how it would differ for those of us in the north particularly, what place would be found for the 20% of the population that is presently unionist.  When we’ve had a calm, extended discussion – not shouting-match –  on the merits and drawbacks of such a new arrangement, then  ask people would they favour it in, say, three or four years’ time. 
For such a discussion we need information, and information that is accurate and is disseminated in clear language. For example, we hear much about the size of the block grant from Westminster. Did you know that the north of Ireland has no dependable statement of the amount of revenue which is generated here and goes into London coffers? Scottish revenue is validated by the Office of National Statistics. Here, we get figures produced by the Department of Finance and Personnel – and nobody verifies those. What’s more, the size of the much-talked-about block grant from Westminster is decided by the amount of money spent on public services in England. Does that make sense?

Those who favour a united Ireland are often accused of living in a green-tinged dreamland. I think there’s some truth in that. The one way to get them out of that dreamland is to present facts and figures – trustworthy facts and figures – that show what at present we gain or don’t gain economically through union with Britain, and what kind of state would be established were we to have an all-Ireland political arrangement. There are arguments beyond the economic which are worth making and should be made, but let’s start with the economic facts. The trouble is, they’re hard to come by. For some reason. 

11 Responses to That Bel Tel poll

  1. John Patton September 18, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    The debate here has not provided answers to the sort of questions you pose and so there remains a substantial number of ‘undecideds’ whose final determination may well be crucial to the eventual outcome. I shall post you a supplement, issued with today’s Herald, (probably an intuitively ‘NO’ organ)which makes a decent stab at objective presentation of the facts. There is some of it here:

    The NO people are fixated on the economic issues and really their argument amounts to ‘nobody can stand alone nowadays’ Try telling that to the successful nation states which have emerged in the last one hundred years. And what does it do for national self-confidence and esteem.

  2. Anonymous September 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    Jude, it is clearly high time for a mature debate about the merits/de-merits of a UI, with a view to holding a border poll in 2020 (call it a 2020 vision!).

    P.S. Love the “20% of the population that is presently unionist”. That will surely prompt a few responses from the PUL minority community.

    P.P.S. On a more serious note, there does appear to be a deliberate strategy here (plethora of anti UI opinion polls) to sell the myth that everyone is happy with life in “our wee country (a.k.a.Province), the letsgetalongerists paradigm.

    However what this fails to address is the “Greening of the North” phenomena that has developed apace in recent years due to fundamental demographic changes (which itself is [spuriously] challenged, denied or deliberately overlooked by media, PUL politicians).

    The Irony is that the more comfortable the CNR community feels in their own (Irish) skin within the North, the less likely they are to vote (for now at any rate) for a UI, hence the rather skewed opinion poll results.

    The strategic challenge for PUL leaders is to mollify these CNR “unicorns” and not alienate them otherwise they will be sleepwalking into a UI.

    The challenge for CNR leaders is as you say so sell the strategic vision of a UI, (wins heads as well as hearts), and at the same time showing the PUL community that a UI is not the dystopian nightmare that their own leaders have been peddling since the formation of the NI statelet.

  3. Anonymous September 18, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    Surely the D F M ,given his status is in a position to do something about commissioning an objective economic report on the costs of an United Ireland .He’s on Twitter, so why not get in touch with him, Jude.I’m sure he’d appreciate your input.

  4. Anonymous September 18, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    Every opinion poll and academic survey since the 1960s has never shown support for ‘Irish unity’ (whatever that is!) above 35%. Still, Jude and his merry band of green-tinged acolytes keep howling at the moon.

    • Anonymous September 19, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

      Your point about the historical opinion polls may indeed be accurate, but surely its fair to state that since 1960 there has been a seismic shift in the internal demographics within the North and that the ramifications of this (e.g. fleg protests) are only now manifesting themselves.

      The equivalency of both the Irish and British identity in the North needs to be accepted as does an acceptance on both sides of what actually happended in the past and why did it happen. There still seems to be a lack of acceptance in some quarters about the true origin of the “Troubles” and a rank hypocrisy with respect to the notion of blame, victimhood etc.

      Equally, if the aspiration of an (indigenously Irish) individual is to Unify the Island of Ireland under Irish sovereignity is deemed fanciful (“howling at the moon”), how would one categorise an individual (of British Planter lineage)whose aspiration is to promulgate the continuance of a failed state that is subsidised and propped up by a disinterested and increasingly parsimonious benefactor? Looking through orange tinted glasses? Unable to accept that the world has moved on from beneath their feet?

    • Anonymous September 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

      Good grief, Protestants have been living on the island of Ireland long before the white population reached the US or Australia, and you still languish in the mentality of referring to them as ‘Planters’. Shows a certain mindset, with which howling at the ‘mythical all-Ireland Republic’ moon is a perfect compliment.

  5. Anonymous September 18, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    The elephant in the room is how you police tens of thousands of violent loyalists who simply will never except re-unification. These people care nothing about economics or social policies. You won’t win them over by rational argument.

    I don’t think they should have a veto but this issue needs to be discussed.

    • giordanobruno September 19, 2013 at 8:55 am #

      It’s a fair point. And I’m not thinking just of the feckless youths who are ever willing for a bit of violent fun.
      The traditional view of Northern protestants as stubborn people may be a stereotype, but there is some truth in it.
      As you say,many will not be swayed by economic arguments into accepting a united Ireland. How will they be persuaded to live with such an arrangement?
      It will not be good enough to say ‘they did it to us now the boot is on the other foot’.

  6. Anonymous September 18, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    You’ve made a great start by sneering at the very people you need to persuade.

  7. Anonymous September 18, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    “Did you know that the north of Ireland has no dependable statement of the amount of revenue which is generated here and goes into London coffers”? Couldn’t SF come up with a set of figures that they believe to be accurate and, by constantly repeating them, force the Brits to disprove them?

  8. Anonymous September 21, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Unfair to complain about the question, I posit.

    Need to ask specific questions with clear time frame: that’s standard polling practice. Hence: “how would you vote if there was a General Election tomorrow”. The “20 years from now” bit is actually to help out, to see if there’s a desire to join ROI in a longer time frame.

    The poll results aren’t that surprising.