The DUP’s rabid hatred has no place here

Mural in Belfast. Picture: glynnis2009 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Dylan Llyr

As the UK has unexpectedly ended up with a hung parliament rather than the thumping Tory majority that Theresa May arrogantly expected, all eyes are suddenly on the Democratic Unionist Party, whose ten MPs now hold the balance of power.

The London media rarely paid much attention to Northern Irish politics until last Friday; even the recent extremely significant Stormont elections passed by almost unnoticed.

As the DUP and Theresa May’s Conservatives are in the process of agreeing a confidence and supply deal, which will entail significant concessions to the party founded by Ian Paisley, the party is experiencing a level of scrutiny that it hasn’t experienced in years.

The proposed deal is worrying for many reasons.

The main and most immediate problem, as many people including John Major have pointed out, is that it imperils the Good Friday Agreement at a particularly sensitive time.

No matter what one’s stance on constitutional issues, however, the idea of the DUP exercising such power over the British government should concern us all because the party’s politics are, frankly, revolting.

Ridiculous

I’m a social liberal and staunch secularist, while the DUP is a bunch of reactionary religious fundamentalists.

On pretty much every social issue, the party as a whole is firmly on the wrong side.

It is fiercely opposed to abortion, for example.

It should be noted that Sinn Fein and the SDLP are also on the wrong side of this issue to various degrees, very much to their shame, but the DUP is particularly hardline and misogynistic.

As a result, abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland, even in cases of rape or foetal abnormalities, even though two thirds of the population would want to allow it in those exceptions at least.

This is utterly ridiculous in a modern western state.

Meanwhile, gay marriage is still banned there, as the DUP can’t stomach the idea.

Literally, apparently: Ian Paisley Jr, son of the founder and one of the ten current MPs, has said that he is ‘pretty repulsed’ by gay people.

Meanwhile, David Simpson MP has actually used the ‘Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve’ argument in unironic seriousness.

These aren’t simply the words of your ordinary bumbling bigots who just don’t know any better, with which most of us are familiar. It’s rabid hatred.

Medievalist

Needless to say, they’re also utterly ignorant about science.

Paul Givan MP, for example, is a creationist who has called for schools to teach ‘alternatives’ to evolution.

Sammy Wilson MP, meanwhile, insists that climate change is a ‘gigantic con’.

This is all rather unusual in a British context. In many ways, it’s a very American set of political obsessions.

The DUP is more similar to the Republican Party of the USA than to the sort of politics we’re accustomed to outside of Northern Ireland.

Now it’s true that these social issues are devolved competencies. But given the opportunity, there’s nothing really stopping them from demanding that some of their medievalist views be imposed on the rest of Britain. They are, after all, unionists.

Even the merest possibility that women’s bodily autonomy, gay rights or basic science could plausibly be traded away is appalling.

Even if the eventual agreement ends up focusing on taxes, benefits and Brexit rather than social issues, the views described above are so idiotic and hateful that it is irresponsible to give the party such power.

The DUP is an embarrassment, and they will inevitably embarrass the government by association.

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12 Comments

  1. You may feel this way about the DUP but its MPs represent their electorates. Parliamentary democracy shouldn’t be tossed aside just because you disagree with someone’s views.

    It seems that Nation.Cymru is more focused on the “progressive/liberal” agenda than on Welsh nationalism, which is a great shame. Trying to shut down the voices of those you disagree with strikes me as being quite authoritarian and fascistic. Why not turn your fire on all those who are opposed to social justice and social liberalism – like many Muslims, for example?

    You won’t do that, I guess, because it would be “racist”. So answer me this: why is it “abhorrent” for the DUP to hold these views but not for Muslims to hold similar and, in many cases, more extreme opinions?

    • Ifan Morgan Jones

      Hi JC. I can’t speak for Dylan but I suspect the reason he’s concentrating his fire on the DUP is because they’re about to hold considerable sway over the UK government. When an extremist Muslim group does the same I’m sure Dylan will be along to condemn it in the same way. He hasn’t exactly held back on this question on his blog in the past: http://anffyddiaeth.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/paris-eto.html?spref=tw

    • You write as if I suggested that the party should be legally or constitutionally forbidden from making deals with the British government. That would be silly. I was just making the political case against them, from the perspective of a liberal atheist, because I think they’re horrible.

      It’s strange that you bring islam into this. As far as I know, the British government isn’t currently negotiating a confidence and supply agreement with a bunch of muslim reactionaries. They are, however, doing so with a bunch of Christian ones, and this is a topical website. Articles on topical websites normally react to current events.

      I enjoyed the assumptions in your last paragraph. You really have no idea what my views on islam are, do you?

  2. I do not support the DUP either, but I have to question the validity of your headline that they, or their policies, “have
    no place here”.

    First, what is the point of using the word “here”? It seems to imply that they can be tolerated “there”. Surely if the DUP’s policies are morally wrong, they’re wrong not only here but also in the Six Counties.

    Second, I think you make too little of the fact that the DUP are not the only party over “there” which isn’t as socially liberal as you would like. It doesn’t seem adequate to say that other parties there share fairly similar views … but that the DUP are somehow so much worse. Is there really that much between them?

    Instead, I think the better way of looking at things is that public opinion in both the Six and Twenty-six Counties is much more socially conservative than in Britain, and that the political positions of the various parties there reflect that greater social conservatism. By singling out the DUP’s policies as “revolting”, you’re coming pretty close to implying that the views of those who vote for them are “revolting” too. That’s 36% of the voting population, not to mention those who vote for other parties which hold broadly similar social views.

    I too want to make a political point, but one that focuses less on the short-term implications of forming a Westminster government now and more on the future of Ireland. The political point I would make is that the social attitudes of people both north and south of the border in Ireland markedly differ from social attitudes in Britain. Would it be too provocative to say that what you are advocating is not that the DUP has no place here, but that there is no place for the views of people in the Six Counties here?

    I would say that there isn’t that much difference between the social conservatism of Protestants in the north and Catholics in both the north and south of Ireland; and that the realization that this common view is now so much at odds with mainstream public opinion in Britain (which your article illustrates perfectly) will be the prime factor that leads to the reunification of Ireland.

    • For what it’s worth, I didn’t write the headline.

      I agree that Northern Ireland is more conservative on social issues in general, and this is inevitably reflected in its politics. Popular support don’t make awful viewpoints any less awful, though. If 36% of the population shares the DUP’s hardline anti-abortion stance and misogyny, then…yes, it does indeed follow that 36% of the population also have revolting views.

      • Thanks for the clarification about the headline, Dylan. As a small suggestion to Ifan and the editorial team, I realize that editors in most publications often take it upon themselves to write “attention grabbing” headlines for articles by others, but would it not be good practice to get the author to agree that it broadly matched the thrust of what they’d written?

  3. I keep seeing an accusation that mentioning policies called ‘progressive/liberal’ means you are not focussing on Welsh nationalism. And, surprise surprise, in this case the comment includes a bash at “Muslims”.

    Basic ‘liberal’ policies like marriage equality or anti-racism, are compatible with Welsh nationalism. It’s not one or the other.

    If a Muslim political party emerged advocating an agenda which was not ‘progressive/liberal’ there would be articles criticising them, which I would agree with. Using that as an argument to support the DUP makes very little sense, because the UK has Muslim MPs already and a majority of them voted in favour of equal marriage. Whatever (outdated in my opinion) religious views they hold, those Muslim MPs for whatever reason decided not to enforce them on parliament as a whole.

    I have to say I am uncomfortable with the headline to an extent and feel it misses the mark.

  4. To Martin: your suggestion that “basic ‘liberal’ policies like marriage equality or anti-racism, are compatible with Welsh nationalism. It’s not one or the other” would be laughable if It wasn’t so sinister. They have literally and metaphorically NOTHING WHATSOVER to do with Welsh nationalism.

    If you can demonstrate otherwise, please feel free to reply.

  5. For what it’s worth, I didn’t write the headline.

    I agree that Northern Ireland is more conservative on social issues in general, and this is inevitably reflected in its politics. Popular support don’t make awful viewpoints any less awful, though. If 36% of the population shares the DUP’s hardline anti-abortion stance and misogyny, then…yes, it does indeed follow that 36% of the population also have revolting views.

    • I am opposed to abortion on demand. I am opposed to gay adoption. I am opposed to the persecution of Christian churches and Christian businesses which disagree with gay marriage…while Muslim zealotry regarding LGBTQ rights is ignored by “liberals”.

      I am not a Christian, nor an atheist nor Muslim. But I am a Welsh nationalist. Your assumption that Wales has settled upon your “liberal” values being the ones that everyone In the country should subscribe to is a bit worrying. It’s not (yet) illegal to oppose gay marriage or abortion but I’d imagine that you’d like it to be.

      Abortion and homosexuality were considered to be immoral and therefore punishable for millennia. The situation has flipped 180 degrees and nowadays they are celebrated and encouraged! I support abortion in certain circumstances and I like and admire gay, lesbian and trans culture. However, the claim that these activities should be part and parcel of Welsh Nationalism, that the values which promote homosexuality and abortion should somehow form the core of an independent Wales, is as absurd as it is authoritarian.

      • I have no idea what article you think you’ve been reading. I’d be able to take you more seriously if you tried to respond to what I’d actually written. You’re criticising arguments that I’ve never even thought, much less made.

        • Your headline says that the DUP possess “rabid hatred” and then define this “hatred” as being anti-abortion and anti gay-marriage stances. How exactly is this “rabid hatred”? A little over the top, maybe, in your hyperbole?

          You say that the DUP, Sinn Fein and SDLP are all on the “wrong side” of the abortion issue. I understand that this is an opinion piece but maybe you should add “in my opinion” in order that you don’t appear to be someone displaying rabid hatred for those whose opinions you disagree with.

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