Sinn Féin says unofficial referendum shows "strong desire" for "united Ireland"

92% of voters in favour of reunification in non-binding poll in two border towns · Gerry Adams feels "debate on Irish unity has now begun" · Opinion polls show support for a united Ireland is below 25% in wider Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams yesterday hailed the result of an unofficial poll on Irish unity that was held on Saturday in the border communities of Creggan Upper (Louth, Republic of Ireland) and Crossmaglen (Armagh, Northern Ireland). The poll was organized by the community group United Ireland-You Decide. 92% of voters supported unity, while 7.3% rejected it. Turnout was 42%.

According to Adams, these results show the "strong desire that exists for a united Ireland". Sinn Féin leader said that "a debate on Irish unity and the type of agreed Ireland people wish to create for the future has now begun".

Sinn Féin has been asking for a cross-border referendum on whether the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland should established a united state covering the whole of the island. Last year, Sinn Féin's deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, put forth a proposal to call a referendum on the issue "anytime between 2016 or 2020-21".

Under the Good Friday Agreement, such a referendum is legally possible. But according to that deal, only the British secretary of state has the power to give it green light.

Unofficial polls similar to the one held in Northern Ireland were called in Catalonia from 2009 to 2011. Participants overwhelmingly supported independence from Spain. The Catalan government has committed to call a legal referendum on the issue in 2014.

Opinion polls say minority in favour of unity

If the referendum was ever called, pro Irish unity advocates would still have a long way to go. Northern Ireland Life and Times set of surveys has shown that reunification was favoured by 15 to 25% of the Northern Irish population over the period 1998-2010, while 50 to 70% rejected it.

A newer 2013 poll by Ipsos MORI for the BBC said that opinions were more or less similar now - 65% would vote for Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK, while 17% would support instead reunification with the Republic of Ireland.

(Picture: a moment of the vote / Image by United Ireland-You Decide.)