The status quo in Northern Ireland cannot remain and change cannot be endlessly postponed.Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lord make me holy...just not yet.

That seems to be the sentiment in Northern Ireland about a united Ireland from Nationalists there, according to a new poll.

While the Catholic/Protestant demographic will be dead even by 2016, there is still about 20 percent of Catholics (overwhelmingly women) who prefer to keep Northern Ireland as it is, according to the survey published in the Belfast Telegraph.

Many want to hold on to the aspiration and say it could well happen in the future, but the reality is that Sinn Fen in particular has a herculean task ahead in trying to convince a large segment of their own people that a united Ireland should be part of their future.

The underpinning of the 'No to a united Ireland' is relatively simple from those Nationalists who say reject it.

There is a very strong economic argument in favor of the status quo. There is a massive transfer from the British Exchequer every year, without which Northern Ireland would be quickly bankrupt. Without that government subvention Northern Ireland’s economy would be utterly crippled.

But the subvention surely comes with a time limit. As financial expert Eamon Donaghy recently noted in the Belfast Telegraph:

“The running cost of Northern Ireland is £20 billion ($32 billion) a year of which we contribute about £9 billion ($15 billion) in taxes. The British taxpayer is not going to continue giving us £11 billion ($17 billion) a year indefinitely.”

So what is the future? Some look south and see no way that the Irish Republic, just emerging from its own dreadful economic woes, could afford $17 billion towards Northern Ireland.

That is definitely true, but depending on British government welfare is no way to look to the future either. The hard-pressed British taxpayer is sure to continue to look askance at Northern Ireland, given the massive subvention they send there.

Sooner or later a day of reckoning will arrive.

Northern Nationalists need to see beyond that subvention and envisage a future where they can govern their own affairs and make an economic future together with the rest of Ireland.

Will that be as a united Ireland, or as some improvement of the hybrid as exists now?

One can see the attraction of the status quo. Unionist leader David Trimble once stated that Northern Ireland was a cold house for Nationalists back when Unionists ran the government and no Catholics were admitted.

That is not the case now, and the Nationalists are firmly entrenched in power as equal partners.

The demographic trend is also moving quickly in their direction from the two-thirds to one-third split that existed when Ireland was first partitioned to equality and a Nationalist majority in the foreseeable future.

Now is the time to contemplate and plan for that future. How, for instance, can Unionism be persuaded that linking with the rest of Ireland makes sense? That is an unbelievably difficult job, even though the recent poll makes clear that a significant number of Protestants do not rule it out.

What is not acceptable is a status quo of depending on British government subvention as the only lifeline for Northern Ireland.

Unionists surely must know that the British would like nothing better than to pull the plug on that particular arrangement and save $17 billion.

So there is equal pressure on both sides and a debate must begin. The status quo is not acceptable, but the solution right now is a farther shore. Except, the demographic reality means such a day cannot be endlessly postponed.