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Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
First Northern Ireland poll

David Cowling

The first poll of opinion in Northern Ireland during the campaign, by Ulster Marketing Services for the Belfast Telegraph, shows support for the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) at 25% (down 8% on their 1997 share), 14% (unchanged) for the DUP, 25% (up 1%) for the SDLP, 16% (unchanged) for Sinn Fein, and 5% (down 3%) for the Alliance party.

These poll shares are, of course, province-wide and need to be treated with caution.

In Northern Ireland what matters most is a series of individual contests where the outcome can be determined by various complex splits within the local unionist and nationalist communities, further compounded by the fact that only the SDLP and Sinn Fein will be contesting every seat.

The poll finds 75% of all respondents in favour of the establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly (including 45% of Ian Paisley's DUP supporters, compared with 40% who oppose it).

Some 51% (including 20% of DUP and 30% of UUP supporters) think David Trimble was wrong to threaten resignation if no IRA decommissioning has occurred by 1 July.

Over three-quarters (78%) of all respondents think John Reid, the Northern Ireland secretary, should not suspend the Assembly "as things stand".

And 57% believe that the agreement is improving conditions in Northern Ireland - including 44% of Protestants and 74% of Catholics.

Almost two-thirds (64%) disagree with returning to direct rule from Westminster and 66% would vote in favour of the Northern Ireland Agreement in a referendum.

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