On March 6th & 7th UCC Students’ Union, in response to a student petition signed by around 1000 UCC students, will hold a referendum to decide their position on Irish Unity. The question put to students will be to decide the Students’ Union’s position on a United Ireland. The referendum is supported by several political societies on campus, and while no ‘No campaign’ has been announced at the time of writing, there has been some small opposition to the Referendum among students on campus. The Students’ Union itself, it is believed, will maintain a neutral stance on this referendum, as it has in past referendums on similar subjects.
On February 21st we asked students their opinions on the Irish Unity referendum. We excluded any responses from people who said they were not students, and limited the number of responses to 100. The first question we asked was ‘Do you think the Students’ Union should be campaigning on the question of Irish Unity?’ and the result was almost evenly split, with 51 out of 100 saying they believed the Students’ Union should not campaign on Irish Unity.
Of the 100 asked, 88 said they would be voting in the referendum on March 6th & 7th, with 53% of those people stating they would be voting in favour of the SU campaigning on Irish Unity. Of the people who said they wouldn’t vote in the referendum, 85% said they would be voting in the Students’ Union elections, which are due to be held on the same day as the referendum vote.
We also asked whether students agreed with external groups, like Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and the DUP, should be allowed to campaign on campus during the referendum: 27 people said yes (they should be allowed), 20 said no, 49 people said yes but only if the members of these groups are also current students, and 4 people said alumni of the University who are members of such groups should be allowed to campaign on campus. Alumni of the University have been allowed to campaign on campus during referendum campaigns before, during the USI and Marriage Equality campus referendums in 2015. One respondent specifically disagreed with the mention of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the question, or as they put it: “the DUP should not be allowed canvass on campus even if they have members in the college as they aren’t organised under the [Societies] guild.”
We asked the respondents that, if there were an actual referendum (i.e. not an SU one) on Irish Unity, would they vote for it. 59% said they would vote in favour of Irish Unity, 27% said they would not vote in favour of Irish Unity, with the rest (14%) saying they didn’t know how they would vote. The final question of the survey asked UCC students if they believe that citizens of the Republic of Ireland should have a say in Irish Unity: 84% said that they should, while 16% of respondents said that they shouldn’t. This question prompted the most comments, with many stating, in various different terms, that the Republic should only vote on Irish Unity following a vote in the North. Other general comments included: someone proposing a ‘Celtic Union’ between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, people expressing surprise that the SU was concerning themselves with such a subject and people who believed that both Students’ Unions in the south and the Irish government have “better things to do” than debate Irish Unity. There was two comments that contained the phrase “Up the Ra” and another that contained a similar sentiment, except it espoused a Unionist position.
The Referendum is due to take place on March 6th & 7th, in conjunction with the UCC Students’ Union elections. For up-to-date coverage & results, follow the UCC Express on social media platforms, on @UCCExpress.