The 2017 general election has resulted in a hung parliament, because Labour’s huge gains have obliterated the Tories’ majority. The irony is delicious: Theresa May’s only option now is to form a ‘coalition of chaos’, the phrase she used to belittle Labour and her other opponents throughout the election.
The only party that had enough seats and hadn’t pre-emptively rejected a coalition with the Tories was Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. If you don’t know who they are, here’s what you need to know.
Who are the DUP?
The Democratic Unionist Party are Northern Ireland’s largest party. In this election they won 10 of Northern Ireland’s 18 seats, which means if they combine their seats with the Tories’ 318, they’ll have enough for a majority in Parliament – the minimum required to govern is 326 of Parliament’s 650 seats.
What does the DUP stand for?
1. They oppose the advancement of LGBT rights
The DUP are the reason Northern Ireland hasn’t legalised same-sex marriage, and it’s the only place on the British Isles that hasn’t yet done so.
They’ve used what are known as ‘petitions of concern’ to block all progress on the matter, and earlier this year, they said they’d rather block the formation of a government than let same-sex marriage be legalised in Northern Ireland, calling it a “red line” in negotiations with Sinn Féin.
Party leader Arlene Foster says gay people are “welcome” in the DUP, adding: “I know plenty of people in that [LGBT] community who don’t want to see marriage redefined and are quite content to live in partnership.”
2. They oppose abortion
Arlene Foster, the head of the DUP, said in 2016: “I would not want abortion to be as freely available here as it is in England and don’t support the extension of the 1967 act.”
In Northern Ireland, the maximum penalty for the ‘crime’ of drug-induced miscarriage under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 is life imprisonment. Earlier this year a Northern Irish GP reported a patient to the police over her use of abortion pills and she was prosecuted. The country’s policy has resulted in abortion pills being flown into Northern Ireland by drone.
In 2016 the United Nations Human Rights Committee commented: “The Committee is concerned about the highly restrictive circumstances in which termination of pregnancy is permitted by law in Northern Ireland and about the severe criminal sanctions for unlawful abortion, which put women’s life and health at risk and force them to travel in order to seek an abortion. The State party [UK] should, as a matter of priority, amend its legislation on abortion in Northern Ireland with a view to providing for additional exceptions to the legal ban on abortion, including in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality.”
3. They have a history of climate change denial
Their former environment minister Sammy Wilson was a climate change denier. In 2014 he called it a “con”. The Guardian also reports it has a number of creationists among its senior members. (Creationists do not believe in evolutionary theory, think the world is only a few thousand years old: they believe a deity created the world and mankind as they are.)
4. In 2011 the DUP called for the return of the death penalty
As The Telegraph reports, 2011 saw five of the party’s MPs calling for a debate on the death penalty, when they said: “Recent horrific crimes throughout the United Kingdom have led many to question whether there are certain criminals whose crimes demand such a sentence… we should be turning our minds to whether our justice system deals appropriately with certain criminals.”
5. They oppose a hard Brexit and a ‘hard border’ with the Republic of Ireland
Considering they’re going into a coalition with the Tories, this could be a point of difficulty between the two parties. Contrary to the Tory manifesto, the DUP don’t want a hard Brexit, with party leader Arlene Foster saying: “no-one wants to see a hard Brexit”.
Foster also says: “We need to do [Brexit] in a way that respects the specific circumstances of Northern Ireland, and, of course, our shared history and geography with the Republic of Ireland. No-one wants to see a hard border, Sinn Fein talk about it a lot, but nobody wants a hard border.”
6. They want to keep the pensions triple lock
Another break with the Tory manifesto is pensions. In their manifesto the Tories pledged to drop the ‘triple lock’ on pensions, which guaranteed that state pensions would rise at the highest of either average earnings, inflation or 2.5 per cent. The DUP want to keep that lock in place, to assure pensioners of their financial futures.
7. Their leader is under fire for an embarrassingly expensive mistake
What do you reckon of Theresa May’s new bedfellows? Let us know in the comments below.