Northern Ireland

NI survey finds more than 40% of people think united Ireland 'very unlikely'

More than 40% of people living in Northern Ireland believe the prospect of a united Ireland is very unlikely, according to a new survey.

The Northern Ireland Life and Times survey also suggests that more Protestants expect reunification than Catholics.

Around 1,200 people were questioned for the annual survey.

The research was carried out by Queen's University, Belfast, and the University of Ulster last year.

15% of those surveyed thought a united Ireland was likely in the next 20 years.

25% thought it was 'quite unlikely' and 41% 'very unlikely'.

While the new figures suggest fewer people expect a united Ireland, it also indicates that there has been a drop in support for Northern Ireland remaining in the UK.

At 63%, the figure is at its lowest level since devolution in 2007.

The report also indicates a change in national identities. It shows a reversal in the percentage of people who identified as Irish and Northern Irish.

In the same survey in 2010, those calling themselves Irish stood at 26%, while those who described themselves as Northern Irish stood at 29%. Those figures now stand at 32% and 22% respectively.

The majority of those surveyed (39%) said they were British, a figure which rose by 1%.

While politics in Northern Ireland is still largely divided between unionism and nationalism, the report said that almost half of those questioned described themselves as neither nationalist or unionist.

The survey also suggests that Catholics feel alienated from the United Kingdom.

Duncan Morrow from the University of Ulster said: "There is evidence that events over many years have caused a significant rise in the proportion of people describing themselves as neither nationalist nor unionist among both Catholics and Protestants."

He added there was a "measurable alienation from the United Kingdom among Catholics in 2012".

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