Meet the DUP, PM May's Puppet Master

After failing to win a majority, the Conservative Party forged an alliance with the right wing Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to form a government. Government needs to have an overall majority of 326 MPs to get legislation past the House of Commons. Let’s meet the DUP which is akin to the Westborough Baptist Church as a political party, now, with power.

The DUP was founded in 1971 by radical Ian Paisley during the Troubles.  It is a Unionist party, a group that favors northern Ireland’s union with the UK and is primarily Protestant.  An Irish nationalist party favors a united Ireland and is typically Catholic.

Beth Klein Boulder talks politics Ian Paisley

Northern Ireland was in the midst of an ethnic-nationalist conflict known as the Troubles, which began in 1969 and would last for the next thirty years. The conflict began amid a campaign to end discrimination against the Catholic/Irish nationalist minority by the Protestant/unionist government and police force. This protest campaign was opposed, often violently, by unionists who viewed it as an Irish republican front. Paisley had led the unionist opposition to the civil rights movement. The DUP were more hardline or loyalist than the UUP and its founding arguably stemmed from insecurities of the Ulster Protestant working class.

The DUP opposed the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973. The Agreement was an attempt to resolve the conflict by setting up a new assembly and government for Northern Ireland in which unionists and Irish nationalists would share power. The Agreement also proposed the creation of a Council of Ireland, which would facilitate co-operation between the governments of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The DUP organized general strikes which led to the downfall of these shared-power peace initiatives.

During 1981, the DUP opposed the talks between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey. That year, Paisley and other DUP members attempted to create a Protestant loyalist volunteer militia—called the (Ulster) Third Force—which would work alongside the police and army to fight the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

In November 1986, a rally was held in which DUP politicians Paisley, Robinson and Ivan Foster announced the formation of the Ulster Resistance Movement (URM). This was a loyalist paramilitary group whose purpose was to “take direct action as and when required” to bring down the Agreement and defeat republicanism. Recruitment rallies were held in towns across Northern Ireland and thousands were said to have joined. The following year, the URM helped smuggle a large shipment of weapons into Northern Ireland, which were shared out between the URM, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). Most, but not all, of the weaponry was seized by police in 1988. In 1989, URM members attempted to trade Shorts’ missile blueprints for weapons from the apartheid South African regime. Following these revelations, the DUP said that it had cut its links with the URM in 1987.

The DUP opposed the other peace initiatives including the Good Friday Agreement referendum, in which the Agreement was approved by 71.1% of the electorate.

In 2016, seeds of alliances with the Conservatives/Tories were planted. The 2017 election bore fruit of power for the DUP. May will have to make concessions to the DUP in order to maintain her government.

Arlene Foster, is the current leader of the DUP. Foster was raised in the town of Dernawilt and is a member of the Protestant Church of Ireland. Her experience with political violence began early in her life when her father was the victim of a failed assassination attempt — shot at their home. As a teenager, Foster was on a school bus that was bombed by the IRA, the vehicle targeted because its driver was a soldier in the Ulster Defence Regiment. Foster is a degreed lawyer.

The DUP formerly campaigned against the legalisation of homosexual acts in Northern Ireland through the “Save Ulster from Sodomy” campaign,and in recent years has vetoed the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. In December, the DUP’s Trevor Clarke was criticised by Sir Elton John after the politician admitted he did not know heterosexual people could contract HIV until a charity explained the facts to him.

DUP East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson, a devout climate change denier, was once Northern Ireland’s environment minister. Mervyn Storey, the party’s former education spokesman, once called for creationism – the belief that human life did not evolve over millions of years but was created by God – to be taught alongside evolution in science classes. He has also objected to an exhibition on evolution in the Ulster Museum and signs at the Giant’s Causeway in his North Antrim constituency.

The DUP has called for a debate in the House of Commons over the death penalty. The party maintains that it is “pro-life” and unanimously opposed a bill by Labour MP Diane Johnson to protect women in England and Wales from criminal prosecution if they ended a pregnancy using pills bought online. The DUP opposes funding for international family planning programs.

The party backs “soft Brexit” and a soft border in Ireland.

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