Six major universities will jointly investigate whether residents of Northern Ireland are eager to join Ireland. It could be a stepping stone to a referendum on unification of the island.
The universities will discuss their wishes and thoughts with Northern Irish citizens and organizations. The study is being conducted by University College London, Queen’s University and Ulster University from the Northern Irish capital of Belfast, Trinity College and University College from the Irish capital of Dublin and the University of Pennsylvania from the United States.
“The working group is independent of all governments and political parties,” they emphasize. The universities are not speaking about whether there should be a referendum, they just want to find out how such a vote could go.
Right to Irish passport
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, but residents have the right to an Irish passport. In addition, the border with Ireland is open, allowing pro-Irish Republicans to act as if they already live in Ireland and are under Irish rule. Due to that rule, it has been relatively quiet in Northern Ireland in recent decades.
During the UK’s EU referendum, most Northern Irish people voted to stay in the EU, but Brexit means Northern Ireland fears the border will close and could lead to new unrest.
The previous period of violence and unrest, The Troubles, ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which states that there should be a referendum on unification when most Northern Irish appear to want to join Ireland.
“Recent developments may have increased the likelihood that these will be met in the coming years, but the question of how to shape such a mood has not yet been considered,” said University College London.