What Are The Latest Odds On A United Ireland?

What Are The Latest Odds On A United Ireland?
© PA

Betting sites believe the chances of Irish unification being voted through before the decade is out remains unlikely, despite new census data revealing a potential change in attitudes in Northern Ireland.

The recently published 2021 UK census has revealed there are now more people who identify as Catholics in the north of the island, than Protestants.

The split is 45.70% to 43.48% in favour of Catholics - a shift from the 2011 census when 48% identified themselves as Protestant.

What’s more, the number of people calling themselves British has dropped 48% to 43%, while 33% now identify as Irish - up from 28%.

Religion, however, cannot be used as a strict indication of how people would vote in an Irish reunification referendum. But it does hint at a general trend as to what to expect from any result.

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Sinn Féin MP John Finucane claimed the results of the census were a “clear indication that historic change is happening”.

And with Sinn Féin winning the most recent Northern Ireland Assembly election, and growing frustration with Westminster over its handling of the Brexit negotiations, the discussion around Irish unification has intensified.

Sinn Féin leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill has spoken positively about the possibility of a referendum soon. However, the gridlock in the Assembly may put an end to that hope for some time.

And Unionist commentator Sarah Creighton tweeted that the census results aren't definitive proof that a referendum is needed.

She said: “Does this mean we’re headed for a UI [United Ireland]? No, but the census results are significant and have implications for the union. Anyone saying otherwise is fooling themselves.”

Which Year Will An Irish Unification Referendum Be Held In Odds

Date of Irish Unification ReferendumOddsBookmaker
202333/1Paddy Power
20269/1Paddy Power
2027 or later1/10Paddy Power

United Ireland Odds

All this and political betting sites appear to reflect a similar attitude to the commentators, that the census in itself won’t sway the debate over a referendum being held.

Indeed, Paddy Power have kept their odds fixed as earlier this year, with an Irish unification referendum being held before 2030 priced at 3/1. That’s a 25% chance of the island being allotted before the decade is out.

Meanwhile, the chances of a referendum within the coming years are also slim. Bookmakers reckon there is a 1% possibility of it happening in 2022, and a 2.9% chance in 2023.

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The 20/1 odds on a 2024 vote reflect the possibility that a strong anti-union result in the UK general election may sway voters towards republicanism. Even then, the bookies reckon there’s only a 6.7% chance a unification vote takes place in 2025.

Indeed, the majority of betting apps expect this debate to rumble on into the 2030s. Despite Brexit and the dud cards dealt to Northern Ireland, the mainland is unlikely to surrender its territory without an almighty fight.

How Scottish Independence Impacts Irish Unification

Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill

What is more likely to come up before Irish unification is another vote on Scottish independence.

The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) are pushing hard for IndyRef 2 but Westminster is fighting back, insisting there is no remit for another vote. That will almost certainly change in 2024 when the SNP, as predicted, sweep seats across Scotland.

And this could have an effect on anti-unionist efforts in Northern Ireland. Should Scotland secure another vote and win independence, the UK is almost certainly going to shut down the notion of it happening again across the Irish Sea.

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The country is still reeling from the 2016 Brexit result. Losing Scotland too would be a severe shock to the economy and the country’s pride - an unquantifiable value that still nevertheless rules plenty of the UK’s policy decisions.

Should the SNP lose the second referendum then there may be more leeway for a vote in Ireland. But even then, the UK will only countenance this if they’re sure the pro-union side would win.

It means efforts for Irish unification are currently stuck. There is a long way to go before politicians would even begin seriously discussing a referendum, and even further for the UK government to agree to it.

But with every election win Sinn Féin secure north of the border, the louder the calls will grow. And, like Scotland, that appears the most sensible - if convoluted - way to achieve independence.