JUST under a third of voters in Northern Ireland would vote for Irish unity, a new poll has revealed. 

The Institute of Irish Studies-University of Liverpool/Irish News survey found that 30 per cent would back the reunification of Ireland in a referendum, with 45.3 per cent voting against it.

Sinn Fein vice president, Michelle O’Neill, said the result of the poll, published this morning was “interesting.”

However, the republican leader said the focus of most people in Northern Ireland wasn’t on the constitutional future right now, but on the cost-of-living crisis.

The poll comes during a bitter contest for control of the Stormont Assembly. 

The DUP collapsed the power-sharing executive in February when it withdrew its first minister Paul Givan in protest at the Northern Ireland protocol, the contentious arrangement in place for post-Brexit Irish sea trading arrangements.

Now polls suggest that the Republicans could, for the first time, win the majority of votes, and hold the position of First Minister. 

Sinn Fein polled 27 per cent of first preference votes in the Irish Studies-University of Liverpool/Irish News, extending its lead over the DUP to almost seven points.

It’s still not entirely clear if there will be a functioning government after the May election, with the DUP saying that they will not re-enter any administration before changes are made to the protocol.

Asked about the border poll as she addressed an election business event hosted by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, Ms O'Neill said “I think it’s an interesting poll.”

“It’s one in a long line of polls. I looked very briefly at the figures this morning but I don’t think people woke up this morning thinking about that.

“I think people woke up this morning thinking about the cost-of-living crisis. I think people woke up this morning around the pressure they feel right now.

“So, I’m focused on the cost-of-living crisis, I’m focused now on what I will do in health, I’m focused on what I’m going to do in the Executive on the other side of the election. I’m focused on what I will do with the economy brief. I’m focused on all of these things.

“Yes, there will come a day whenever we will vote on the constitutional question and I will bring my politics to that.”

Ms O’Neill also said there was no contradiction in Sinn Fein working within the political institutions in Northern Ireland and also pursuing the goal of Irish unity.

“But my focus today is very much on the cost-of-living crisis and getting to the other side of this election, and then trying to form an executive and working with the other parties,” she added.

Asked if that meant unity was not a current priority, Ms O’Neill replied: “We’re not one-dimensional in life. Obviously, that’s who I am – I’m a republican.

“There won’t be any secret that I want to see unity in the country, but I am focused for today on the cost-of-living crisis.”

During a visit to the Foyle constituency, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson accused Sinn Fein of lying about where a border poll was on their list of priorities.

“Sinn Fein should be open and honest about its divisive border poll plans,” he said.

“Only two weeks ago they were happy to talk about their divisive border poll plan in Washington and New York to senators and congressmen.

“Why does Sinn Fein not want to talk about their divisive border plans in Northern Ireland? The people of Northern Ireland deserve honesty from Sinn Fein and its leaders.”

Meanwhile, SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon said it was “lazy politics” to call for a referendum on unity without doing the preparatory work on what a united Ireland would look like.

“The SDLP has always said that it is lazy politics to just keep calling for a border poll, the hard work that needs to be done is setting out exactly what that would mean to people, what it would mean for a new health care system on the island, a new education system, a new housing system,” she told the PA news agency.