Peace in Northern Ireland is important to UK stability, say Britons

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
April 13, 2021, 1:57 PM UTC

Many still would not be fazed if Northern Ireland left the Union, however

Senior members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland have described the scale of the recent unrest in and around Belfast as for the worst they have seen in a long time.

While the riots have begun to abate, new YouGov research among those on the British mainland reveals that most (76%) think continued peace in Northern Ireland is important to the stability of the Union as a whole. This includes some two in five people (40%) who think it’s “very important” for the United Kingdom as a whole Northern Ireland remains at peace.

While this opinion is shared by a large majority of Conservative voters (83%) and Labour supporters (81%), there is a difference among generations in Great Britain. Among Britons aged 65 and over, many of whom will no doubt have memories of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, half (50%) think maintaining peace in the country is “very” important to the stability of the United Kingdom as a whole, and a further 35% think it is “somewhat” important. In comparison, only 29% those aged between 18 and 24 think peace in Northern Ireland is “very important” to UK stability and 40% think it is “somewhat”, with a further 23% of these young adults unsure.

Three in ten of the youngest adults in Great Britain are completely unaware of the unrest

Northern Irish TV presenter Eamonn Holmes slammed the national papers earlier this month for their lack of coverage on the riots, which he claimed would be front page news had they happened in Peterborough or Blackpool. Overall, some 22% of Britons said they were very aware of the latest riots before beginning our survey, compared to 37% who were somewhat aware, while 21% had heard of them but were not very aware, and over one in six (17%) were completely unaware of the disturbances.

As well as being less sure of the importance of peace in Northern Ireland, young adults in Great Britain are also the most likely to be unaware of the recent unrest. Three in ten adults aged between 18 and 24 say they are completely unaware of what was happening in Northern Ireland, compared to 23% of those between 24 and 49, 12% of those aged from 50 to 64, and only 8% of those 65 and over who say they were unaware of unrest in Northern Ireland.

Would it bother Britons if Northern Ireland left the Union?

Despite thinking Northern Irish peace is important to UK stability, apathy continues about the region remaining in the Union.

Just under half (46%) of Britons would not be bothered if Northern Ireland left the United Kingdom, compared to 31% who be upset, and 11% who would be pleased at the country’s departure.

Those not bothered either way about Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom include some 45% of Conservative voters and 42% of Labour voters, as well as 50% of 25 to 49-year olds, who are the most likely age group not to be bothered. 

The 46% of Britons not bothered at a potential exit of Northern Ireland represents a fall of eight points, compared to the 54% who said the same in March 2020.

Please note that this survey was only conducted on the British mainland, i.e. in England, Scotland and Wales, and so does not include Northern Irish respondents.

See full results here

See results for previous survey here