My thanks go to Paula Devine for today's publication of the latest Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey. The most interesting question for me is always the long-term constitutional preferences of the respondents. As I have said before, no poll or academic survey conducted since 1969 has shown support for an all-Ireland state topping 30%; this survey is no different.
Even looking at the results of all the Life and Times studies conducted since 1998, there is nothing to satiate Irish separatism. Since its inception in 1998, support has been consistently high for the Union. Look at 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 to see the point I'm making. Of course, the traditional rejoinder from separatists harks back to electoral voting preferences. However, as Austen Morgan makes clear in his excellent legal text on the Belfast Agreement:
'A substantial section of the people in Northern Ireland (who apparently wish for a united Ireland) is conjecture, even if it may be inferred from political alignment. A prediction on how people would vote on a specific question (border poll) is an entirely different matter.'
There is no legal, demographic, economic or political basis to tear Ulster from the Union. Therefore, the efforts of the DUP should be channelled into keeping those who desire to do so away from the institutions of governance.