Last night, as the exit polls rolled in, it became clear that the UK was heading for a hung parliament. As you read down the projected number of seats, there was the estimated 18 ‘other’. Given how close it was, those 18 alternative seats would mean a lot. Most of those ‘other’ seats were situated in Northern Ireland: a part of the United Kingdom, with a system marred by tribal politics, religious influence and years of division, that the ‘mainland’ is quite happy to ignore most of the time.
Now, those NI seats, 10 bagged by the Democratic Unionist Party, are propping up a Conservative minority government. The Tories are hanging by a small thread, at the behest of a known racist, misogynistic, climate change-denying, ultra religious farce. “We do not want a coalition of chaos,” Theresa May said, but here we are, hurtling towards the sun with anti-choice, pro-creationist bigots.
The DUP are the largest party in devolved Northern Ireland, though there is no NI government right now, after power-sharing between the DUP and nationalist Sinn Fein broke down earlier this year. It’s led by Arlene Foster, who was embroiled in the ‘cash for ash’ scandal that brought down NI government, and it’s the country’s biggest Unionist party. Though the Green Party received over half a million votes and the DUP over 292,000, the Greens have one seat, and the NI party are sailing into Westminster with 10 and a major role in the coalition: First Past the Post folks, it sucks. This could have catastrophic effects on NI, and the UK as a whole.
I’m an Irish woman, from just outside of Belfast, that grew up in a largely Catholic family. Though, at 23-years-old, I'm lucky enough to have dodged the major atrocities of the Troubles, I have seen and experienced the hatred hardliners like the DUP have inflicted during their poisonous reign. Here’s a brief list outlining why you should be pretty fucking worried:
Arlene Foster and Theresa May in coalition! A churchy bake sale from the seventh circle of hell.— Seán Bernard (@seanboneill) June 9, 2017
THEY LEGITIMATELY HATE WOMEN AND BELIEVE IN FORCED PREGNANCY
The DUP has used religion as the crux of an argument that denies women full reproductive rights. Abortion is heavily restricted in NI, as the 1967 Abortion Act doesn’t extend there. Women aren’t entitled to NHS abortions, and must pay for private treatment if they travel for their termination. As many as 11 women travel from the North and South of Ireland every day to access abortion services, willfully ignored by the NI state. Women have recently faced trial there for procuring safe but illegal abortion pills. It’s overwhelmingly an economic issue, particularly affecting working class women. The DUP fucking want this.
The unionist party has challenged any move to liberalise the laws surrounded abortion, whether in cases of rape or foetal abnormalities, despite the fact the courts ruled NI’s abortion laws were a breach of human rights. Edwin Poots, the former health minister, pushed guidelines that put pressure on doctors to report women seeking help for terminations, and went after providers like the wonderful Marie Stopes Clinic.
In 2015, the DUP tried to push through a bill that would have, horrendously, tightened abortion laws even more, encouraging prison sentences. Grainne Teggart, of Amnesty International, told the Belfast Telegraph at the time: “Women’s healthcare should not be a matter for criminal sanction”. The DUP, in contrast, believes in criminalising women, forcing them to be vessels without a choice. Despite the High Court ruling that abortion must be allowed in some circumstances, the DUP and other parties voted to uphold the ban, while the Tories chose to ignore the issue. TEAM.
Upset about what’s going on in the U.S with the Trump administration’s crusade against Planned Parenthood? Look closer to home, UK residents, and you’ll see the horrors surrounding women’s body autonomy. Amazing abortion rights activists have been campaigning for a long time, from Alliance for Choice to Abortion Support Network, Belfast Feminist Network and the London Irish Abortion Rights Campaign: now is the time to show your support for those defending reproductive rights. Maybe now, the UK can finally face the plight of women made second-class citizens.
Other examples of vitriolic sexism are rife in the history of the DUP: from mooing at women speaking in parliament, to their leader called Michelle O’Neill, the Sinn Fein leader, nothing more than a “blonde”.
DINOSAURS DIDN’T EXIST FOR FUCKS SAKE
Several members of the DUP are part of the Caleb Foundation, a group – known as ‘Young Earthers’ (lol but cry) – that believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old. They take the Book of Genesis extremely literally, so God created the world in six days, and T-Rexs never fucking happened, okay? A recent survey, according to Huffington Post, found that 40 percent of DUP-affiliated activists think creationism should be taught in schools. One of the Young Earthers is also chair of the education committee. Darwin? Get to fuck.
Evangelical beliefs permeate the DUP’s policies: people are in agreement that their manifesto reads like a Bible. There have been some pretty outrageous, sometimes sinisterly funny examples of their attempts to exercise religious stringency in NI. Like when the DUP tried to get a play banned because it made fun of the Bible, and they supported chaining up children’s playgrounds to stop kids playing on them on the Sabbath… It all sounds cartoonishly evil.
Licensing laws, supported by several parties, also enforce prehistoric, strict timings that affect local nightlife, all in the name of not getting bladdered in front of God on Easter Sunday.
Remember when the DUP tried to sue the Ulster Museum for having an exhibition on evolution and not creationism. Great bunch of lads.— Neil Gibbons (@neilgibbons) June 9, 2017
THEY THINK LGBT PEOPLE ARE ‘UNNATURAL’
Though the Tories have attempted to distance themselves from anti-LGBT discourse (look at May’s dismal voting record), pledging to reform the Gender Recognition Act among other issues, their prospective coalition mates are out of this world gross when it comes to treating the LGBT community. It seems like you can’t be a senior member of the DUP without saying something horrifically homophobic. Ian Paisley jnr, has said: “I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism… I think that those people harm themselves and – without caring about it – harm society.”
Former minister Iris Robinson described homosexuality as “disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked and vile” back in 2008. Nice. A great little titbit about Iris is that, while railing against the gays for threatening the sanctity of marriage, she was having an affair with a 19-year-old constituent.
This is a party that, under its founder Ian Paisley, led the bitter and twisted ‘Save Ulster Under Sodomy’ campaign in the 70s, when the European Court of Human Rights ruled homosexuality must be made legal there. Though support for equal marriage in NI is hovering at around 70 percent right now, the DUP has successfully blocked same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland as much as five times; they’ve used a ‘petition of concern’ – a power that was only meant to be employed to veto policies that would affect the NI peace process. This makes NI the only UK state without marriage equality. They’re also the purveyors of the ‘conscience clause’, actively supporting discrimination against people for their sexuality – check out the row over a ‘gay cake’ here.
Further, Jim Wells – who was somehow allowed to be the Health Minister – resigned following comments where he suggested gay parents were more likely to abuse their kids. Trevor Clarke told the NI assembly during the discussion of a local HIV campaign that he previously didn’t know straight people could get HIV. This is in 2016.
THEY’RE ENDORSED BY PARAMILITARIES
Much of this short-lived election campaigning has eyeballed Corbyn and his supposed sympathies for the IRA. Now, it seems ludicrous that the Tories plan to unite with a party that has a track record of terrorism in its ranks and paramilitary endorsement, given the mass outrage over Corbyn, right? Where is the line drawn? Just a week after the gruesome murder of a man in Bangor, believed to be part of a UDA feud, the Ulster Political Research Group (linked to paramilitaries) urged people to vote for a DUP candidate in South Belfast.
Leader Foster met with the head of the UDA, Jackie McDonald, two days after the recent murder, a move that was met with widespread criticism. It was only after serious backlash that the party bent to reject terrorist backing.
Some of its members, including previous party leader Peter Robinson, were active members of the Ulster Resistance during the troubles, a known terrorist group that worked with others, including the Ulster Volunteer Force, to smuggle arms and enact terror. Of course, following the Good Friday Agreement, both Sinn Fein and the DUP rescinded any of their violence.
DARK RUMOURS SURROUND THEIR SUPPORT FOR BREXIT
Despite the majority of Northern Ireland voting to remain in the European Union in last year’s referendum, the DUP wholeheartedly supported Brexit. Strangely, the party spent £282,000 on a pro-Brexit advert in London publication Metro. Weird, given that it’s not published in NI right? Investigations by journalists (there’s a great one here), suggest that there could be outsider influence that funneled money into the DUP to encourage Brexit. Transparency over financial donations in NI is really murky, as parties don’t have to reveal donors, and this in particular is pretty worrying for the wider government. Could outside forces be pulling the strings of a party joining the coalition?
Brexit could have lasting effects on NI, especially when it comes to the peace process. The Good Friday Agreement – which restored peace to NI, although was refuted by the DUP – established a soft border between the Republic and the North. Brexit, of course, muddies this. Years of establishing peace and good relations could be decimated.
CLIMATE CHANGE IS ALSO APPARENTLY ONE BIG LIBERAL FAIRYTALE
The DUP manifesto fails to mention anything about the serious issue of climate change. Sammy Wilson, a known denier of climate change, was once the environment minister for NI – he actually banned a government advert ‘Act on CO2’ for being ‘green propaganda’. He also recently described the Paris Agreement as “a delusion… a piece of window dressing for climate chancers”. Conclusion on climate change? A “gigantic con” and “semi-religion”, according to Wilson. It’s not unlike the views of Donald Trump, who’s called global roaming a hoax.
Just last year, the DUP’s current environment minister Michelle McIlveen refused to introduce policy on climate change, making NI the only UK country to have no laws regarding carbon emissions.
It’s quite concerning, given that there’s some Tories who share similar views on the environment. Nick Timothy, a policy chief for Theresa May, called the Climate Change Act a “monstrous act of self-harm”. I for one welcome an Ice Age that will hopefully wipe us and this nonsense out ASAP.
THEIR RACISM IS DOWNRIGHT APPALLING
Enoch Powell was kicked out of the Conservatives back in the 60s for racist and fascist rhetoric, so he popped on over to Northern Ireland and the Ulster Unionist Party, where (then UUP member, who later got into the DUP) Jeffrey Donaldson became his campaign manager. Donaldson, one of the longest serving DUP MPs, writes – astonishingly proud – on his website:
“I worked alongside two of the greatest names in Unionism in the 20th century. Between 1982 and 1984 I worked as Enoch Powell’s constituency agent, successfully spearheading Mr. Powell’s election campaigns of 1983 and 1986 when the South Down seat was retained despite the fact the constituency contained a natural ‘nationalist’ majority.”
Former leader Peter Robinson also became embroiled in scandal after he made bizarre Islamophobic comments. Touting his own Christian views, he said: “I'll be quite honest, I wouldn’t trust them in terms of those who have been involved in terrorist activities. I wouldn't trust them if they are devoted to Sharia Law.
“I wouldn't trust them for spiritual guidance. Would I trust them to go down to the shops for me, yes I would.”
In 2016, Sammy Wilson (him again) was pulled up after a member of the public said NI needed to “get the ethnics out”, where he replied “you are absolutely right”.
The DUP would most definitely support a Tory government that wanted to inflict stricter immigration policies, as well as harder nosed terror laws. After all, as Siobhan Fenton writes in Prospect, this is one of the parties present during the time of internment without trial.
SO: THINGS YOU CAN DO IN THE WAKE OF THIS SHITSHOW
Are you angry now? I hope so. Human rights in Northern Ireland have been eaten away at by hardline parties, most of all the DUP, and the rest of the UK turned a blind eye. Where were you when a 15-year-old and her mother were pulled up for procuring abortion pills? When a gay couple were denied services in a local business and the government only strove to make that more legal? Now, the DUP have a real chance to infect elsewhere.
As Claire Bailey, South Belfast’s Green Party candidate and one of the few truly progressive Northern Irish MLAs, says on Twitter: “this is where the DUP will now be scrutinised and held accountable. Nowhere to hide now.”
Call your local constituency office, Tory or otherwise, and tell them you vehemently do not support a DUP/Tory coalition. Email your MP with this template right here. Read Northern Irish writers and commentators to get a fuller view. Support groups that challenge the homophobic, misogynistic, anti-choice bile that the DUP spews out. I hope their downfall is spectacular, on a global stage.
Follow Anna Cafolla on Twitter here @annacafolla