Sinn Fein deputy Michelle O’Neill demands Irish Unity referendum
Sign up for FREE now and never miss the top politics stories again
We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info
Sir John, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, was speaking after the publication of a Lucid Talk poll in the Belfast Telegraph indicating a slump in support for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to 13 percent, behind the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) on 16 percent, and on level pegging with Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV). By contrast, Nationalists Sinn Fein are on 25 percent, and leader Mrs O’Neill would likely become First Minister if the results were replicated in next year’s Northern Ireland Assembly elections.
Sir John told Express.co.uk: “The levels of party support are not that surprising.
“The reason why Sinn Fein is ahead with 25 percent in this poll, which is slightly down on the position in the last Assembly election, is just that the Unionist vote has fractured, and in particular, the DUP is losing a shedload of votes to the Traditional Unionists.
“So you’ve now got the DUP, the UUP, and Traditional Unionists all roughly at around 15 percent or so.
Boris Johnson could soon be faced with Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neil as First Minister (Image: GETTY)
Sir John Curtice is Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde (Image: GETTY)
“So the Unionist vote is now severely fractured while the Nationalist vote is still much more concentrated on Sinn Fein than it is the SDLP.
“Therefore so long as that fracturing of Unionist vote remains in place, Sinn Fein looks like they’ve got a good chance of coming first next year, not because they’re any more popular but because of that division.”
The current situation was one of the consequences of the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, Sir John suggested.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister (Image: GETTY)
He added: “By basically selling out on what the DUP wanted for Northern Ireland and accepting the idea of there being checks down the Irish Sea, he basically screwed the DUP and is suffering the consequences.
“Of course the way, the Assembly works, the fact that Michelle O’Neill might become the First Minister, not the Deputy First Minister is perhaps more symbolic than anything else.
“Given the way the Assembly works, nothing happens unless there is both a majority of nationalists and unionists in favour.”
EU will make UK ‘wait forever’ to resolve tense Brexit border row [REPORT]
‘Scotland would need handouts from Russia or China!’ – Urgent warning [REVEAL]
Lord Frost set for EU showdown in crunch Brexit border row [INSIGHT]
Michelle O’Neill and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (Image: GETTY)
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (Image: GETTY)
Nevertheless, the prospect of a Nationalist First Minister would be a significant headache for Mr Johnson, Sir John predicted.
Referring to Nicola Sturgeon, he said: “It could mean that not only could Boris Johnson face a First Minister in Scotland who wants to get out of the United Kingdom but he could also face a First Minister in Northern Ireland that also wants to get out of the United Kingdom.
“So it won’t make it easy.”
Lucid Talk’s poll (Image: Lucid Talk)
The Lucid Talk poll puts support for staying in the United Kingdom at 49 percent, with 42 percent favouring a united Ireland.
Sir John said: “All the polls still suggest that there are more people in favour of staying as part of the UK than not.
“But what is also true is that in the long run, the Nationalist community is growing more rapidly and also in the long run for demographic reasons Northern Ireland’s position is arguably being eroded and also arguably Brexit will put the icing on that cake.”
Northern Ireland Protocol factfile (Image: Express)
Nevertheless, Sir John said there was nothing inevitable about a so-called border poll on the question of Irish unity in the near future.
He explained: “The legislation says that a border poll should be called when it becomes clear that there is a majority in favour.
“So if somebody was to attempt to take the UK Government to court because they feel the conditions of the Northern Ireland Act have been satisfied, it appears they have not been satisfied.
“However, the issue has clearly been given a whole new lease of life because of Brexit.”