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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 19:04 GMT
Nationalists want IRA to disband now
A new poll jointly commissioned by BBC Newsnight and the Belfast Telegraph shows that six out of ten nationalists - including almost half of Sinn Fein voters - believe the IRA should disband now.

As the republican movement remains in crisis, following the murder of Robert McCartney and the Northern Bank robbery, the poll indicates that the very existence of the IRA is being questioned within nationalism.

59% of Sinn Fein supporters say that the IRA should decommission all of its weapons and 44% of them say the IRA should disband.

61% of those polled said they believed the IRA was responsible for the Northern Bank raid. 47% said they were dissatisfied with the response of the Sinn Fein leadership to the murder of Robert McCartney. 29% said they were satisfied - the rest didn't know.

Divided

The poll suggests Catholics and Protestants are divided about what the Secretary of State Paul Murphy should do now. 43% of Protestants say he should bring back the Assembly, but exclude Sinn Fein from ministerial positions. 47% of Catholics say he should bring back the Assembly with the full participation of all parties.

A poll question posed at the same time by the Belfast Telegraph suggests the DUP has established an increased lead over the Ulster Unionists and that Sinn Fein and the SDLP are now level pegging in the battle for nationalist votes.

The poll, conducted at the start of this week, estimates DUP support at 28%, Sinn Fein at 20%, the SDLP at 20%, the UUP at 16% and Alliance at 4%.

Gerry Adams
47% were dissatisfied with Sinn Fein's response to the murder of Robert McCartney
The trend on the unionist side appears relatively clear. The poll suggests the DUP is up two and a half points, in comparison to the Assembly election of November 2003, and up eight per cent in comparison to a similar poll conducted earlier that month.

The UUP is down six and a half points in comparison to the Assembly election and down 10 points in comparison to the poll.

On the nationalist side the picture is more confusing. In comparison to the 2003 Assembly election, Sinn Fein appears to be down three and a half points and the SDLP up three points.

But in comparison to the pre-election poll in 2003, Sinn Fein have maintained the same level of support and the SDLP have dropped two points.

Slight erosion

The pollsters, Millward Brown Ulster, say the poll doesn't suggest any huge slippage in the Sinn Fein vote although there may be some slight erosion in the party's middle class support.

The only conclusion they believe can be drawn is that the nationalist battle is very competitive.

Millward Brown Ulster interviewed a representative sample of 1,010 Northern Ireland adults on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

All interviewing was face-to-face and was conducted at 56 randomly-selected points according to the standards of the Interview Quality Control Scheme and the Code of Conduct of the Market Research Society.

BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Northern Ireland poll
Has there been a change in attitude towards Sinn Fein?




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