Northern Ireland

BBC Newsline poll: Support for Parades Commission and peace centre

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Media captionA number of questions on flags, parades and the past were asked, as Mark Devenport explains

There is significant support for keeping the Parades Commission and for building a peace centre at the former Maze jail, a survey has suggested.

The poll on flags, parades and the past was conducted for BBC Northern Ireland.

It also indicates people do not want a line drawn under the investigation of offences dating back to the Troubles.

On the flying of flags on public buildings, the designated days option has the most cross-community support.

On the past, the Attorney General John Larkin sparked a furore when he suggested the prosecution of Troubles-era offences should end.

The pollsters asked people if the police should stop investigating Troubles-era offences that date back to before the the Good Friday Agreement.

Thirty per cent said yes, they should stop investigating, but 45% said no, believing investigations should continue. The other 25% said they had no opinion.

More than half of those describing themselves as from a Protestant background said investigations should not stop whereas those from a Catholic background were more evenly split overall on the question, with just over a third agreeing the police should continue to investigate Troubles offences.

In the Haass talks there has been considerable discussion around creating an office that could offer some form of limited immunity to those providing information about Troubles murders.

The poll asked if Northern Ireland should have a Truth Commission that offers immunity to those who admit what they did during the Troubles.

Slightly more people, 38%, were in favour, compared to 36% against. Around a quarter, 26% had no opinion.

It is understood that as a mechanism to deal with the past, the Haass team has proposed a single investigative body bringing together work currently carried out by the Historical Enquiries Team and Police Ombudsman and possibly the coroners courts.

There is also a proposal for an independent information recovery body that would have the power to offer limited immunity covering information brought to it.

People could not have their own testimony used against them in court, but they might still be open to prosecution on the basis of evidence gathered from elsewhere.

Over the summer, amid tensions over marching, First Minister Peter Robinson put the proposed Maze Peace and Reconciliation Centre on hold.

Thirty nine per cent of those interviewed for the poll agreed the peace centre should be built, while only 26% said it should not.

Support for the peace centre was especially high among who described themselves as having a Catholic background, with more than half saying the centre should go ahead. Some 41% of those from a Protestant background disagreed with building a centre at the Maze.

Dr Haass was called in after trouble erupted in Belfast over the council's decision to fly the union flag on designated days only.

Although that option may have stirred tension, the poll suggests it is the only one with significant cross community support. 33% favour flying the union flag only on 18 designated days over public buildings. 25% say the union flag should flutter all year round and 15% say it should never be flown.

Nearly a half of those with a Protestant background, 49%, told the pollsters they want the flag flown 365 days a year. Only 4% of Catholics favoured that.

Similarly only 2% of Protestants opted for never flying the flag, whereas 28% of those from a Catholic background selected that option.

It is understood Richard Haass's talks team is suggesting that all councils and other public buildings should fly flags only on 18 designated days as a default option.

What is under discussion in the Haass talks is whether individual councils should have the power to vary the number of days they fly the union flag.

Should nationalist majority councils be able to opt out from designated days? If so, should unionist majority councils be able to increase the number of days the flag flies over their buildings?

In the poll people were also asked about flags flying from lampposts and 43% said it should be against the law.

One of the objectives of the Haass talks is to come up with a replacement for the much-criticised Parades Commission. However 39% of those interviewed for the poll believe the commission should be retained, while only 24% want to see it abolished. 37% said they had no opinion.

There is more support for the Parades Commission amongst Catholics, 48% of whom want it retained. Protestants are divided - 32% want it kept but 34% of them want the quango abolished.

The BBC Northern Ireland Newsline poll was carried out over the last three weeks by the pollsters Ipsos Mori. They interviewed 1,021 people face to face at a number of locations across Northern Ireland.

When it came to community background, 9% of people said they belonged to neither or other categories or refused to answer the question.

Throughout the findings, quite a high percentage registered no opinion. Ipsos Mori said that when it comes to questions about the economy, education or health far fewer people tend to tick the no opinion box.

The full results will be revealed on BBC Newsline at 18:30 GMT on BBC One Northern Ireland.