Who are the DUP and why should we worry?

On the back of the announcement of the hung parliament Dónal Murray-Ferris profiles just who exactly the DUP are, and why this doesn’t promise a good future for the LGBTQ+ community.

Those who have read my previous article about my life as a teenager in Northern Ireland will know that it wasn’t always the easiest place to grow up as member of the LGBTQ+ community. As the rest of the UK (and indeed the Republic of Ireland) wakes up to equality in regards of same-sex marriage Northern Ireland is trailing behind mainly down to it’s majority leadership from the Democratic Unionist Party.

Northern Ireland has had a fractious leadership across the years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement on the 10th April 1998. This agreement contained proposals for a power-sharing executive government to be based in Stormont Castle in Belfast, cross-border institutions with the Republic of Ireland and a body linking devolved assemblies across the UK with Westminster and Dublin. This was the agreement that Northern Ireland had been wanting for years. This was finally the chance for the country to shake off direct rule from Westminster and control it’s own destiny.

The crux of the difficulty of having a cohesive government in Northern Ireland has always been the clash of culture and religion and even with the Good Friday Agreement in place it was never set to be an easy ride. The first full executive took office in December of 1999 but over the years there has been a great deal of disharmony. The leaders of Sinn Fein and the DUP have been nominated on numerous occasions only for the executive not to meet due to the unwillingness of the parties to work together.

Northern Ireland has had a fractious leadership across the years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement on the 10th April 1998.

In the latter years of the executive with Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness at the the helm progress was finally being made, but this was not to last. The leadership of the DUP has been under the rule of Arlene Foster since December 2015 and she took up the role of First Minister in 2016. This was set to be a short lived role for Foster as she was forced to step down from due to the resignation of her Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness on the back of a Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.  As it stands the Northern Ireland executive is not meeting as the two elected parties of the DUP and Sinn Fein are still unwilling to work together.

The crux of the difficulty of having a cohesive government in Northern Ireland has always been the clash of culture and religion and even with the Good Friday Agreement in place it was never set to be an easy ride

The DUP are a party that have caused many upsets over their years of leadership but just as the future of Northern Ireland was looking brighter thanks to a positive working relationship between their leaders this has changed greatly in recent years. The DUP have abused their power to block same sex marriage using the petition of concern 2012 and have pledged to continue doing so for as long as they possibly can. They have used this petition of concern 86 times across five years– a complete abuse of their power. To table a petition of concern a party must have at least 30 signatures by members of the chamber. As currently stands the DUP hold only 28 seats and have lost their stronghold to single handedly stop marriage equality.

In the latter years of the executive with Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness at the the helm progress was finally being made, but this was not to last.

Earlier this year they were found to be involved in a scandal involving a Renewable Heat Incentive scheme. The purpose of this scheme was to help businesses, public sector, and other non-domestic organisations in Northern Ireland meet the cost of installing renewable heat technologies – therefore reducing the UK’s carbon emissions. In 2016 it was reported that the scheme had overspent by £30m, sparking an investigation. It transpired that Arlene Foster had been made aware of the issue of overspending in 2013 and she was accused of shirking her responsibilities by fellow politicians. They also hold a strong anti-abortion stance which has been an issue long debated in Northern Ireland’s history.

This is the same woman who Theresa May has today announced she will set up a coalition government with. Our country is now set to be partly led by a party with a recent history that does not bode well for our future. If we thought that Theresa May being in power had a negative impact I feel we should be even more worried about Arlene Foster. With her strong opinions on equality and her clear lack of morals she is not one to take lightly. She will no doubt have a very clear idea of how she and May will approach their joint leadership which I daresay will not be good for our country.

Follow Dónal on Twitter (@simplydonal)

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