For almost a decade, Paisley senior was the lone DUP voice in the Commons, but now just a couple of years after his death, his party is the kingmaker propping up the rift-ridden and minority Tory Government.
For a party so wedded to Christian fundamentalism, the DUP is really a religious version of the old Communist Party of Great Britain with its ethos of ‘put party first’.
The party began as a protest movement in the late 1960s to the liberal Ulster Unionist policies of the then Northern Ireland Prime Minister Terence O’Neill. By 1969, Paisley senior his serious political career under the banner of the hardline Right-wing Protestant Unionist Party.
The following year, 1970, marked the breakthrough for Paisley senior taking first the Stormont Bannside seat and then the Westminster North Antrim seat. In 1971, the original PUP became the Democratic Unionist Party, fusing together a potent political concoction of Christian fundamentalism and working class loyalism.
The secret of success for the DUP is not just the Protestant work ethic of its elected representatives on bread and butter issues for constituents; it is the DUP’s ability to be a pragmatic party.
In 1985, it boosted its local government representation with its ‘Smash Sinn Fein’ slogan. Yet in 2006, it signed up to the St Andrews Agreement which saw the party enter a power-sharing Stormont Executive with Sinn Fein.
In 1998, the DUP campaigned against the Good Friday Agreement and got hammered in the referendum by the Yes camp. Yet in 2003, it replaced the pro-agreement and rival Ulster Unionist Party as the largest pro-Union party in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
For many years, the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster – which Paisley senior founded in 1951, two decades before the DUP – dominated the hardline social conservative policies of the DUP, culminating in the ‘Save Ulster From Sodomy’ campaign.
Now the party is led by Arlene Foster, an Anglican member of the more theologically liberal Church of Ireland. In spite of an increasingly secular society emerging in the Republic of Ireland, in Northern Ireland there is still a very strong Church-going fraternity both Catholic and Protestant.
The Foster-led DUP must not fall into the same pitfall and the electorally decimated UUP. The latter, in attempting to push a liberal unionist agenda, abandoned one of its key voter bases – the Christian Churches. The DUP must remain as the voice of evangelical Christians.
While a financially lucrative deal for Northern Ireland as a result of an agreement with the Conservatives looks highly likely, the DUP must be ready to do a similar deal with Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn should the socialist boss create a scenario whereby the minority Tory Government is defeated and Corbyn emerges as the major player in a minority Labour Government.
While the present DUP stance towards Corbyn resembles Paisley senior’s iconic ‘Never, Never. Never’ speech in 1985 against the Anglo-Irish Agreement, people should never underestimated the DUP’s pragmatic ethos. If the DUP needs to do a deal with Corbyn, then that deal will be done, just as the DUP did a deal with the late Martin McGuinness to bring about the restoration of power-sharing in 2007 under the banner of ‘The Chuckle Brothers’.
And just because the UUP is on its last legs as a political movement, the DUP must ensure in the future that as many in the pro-Union community continue to put the DUP first. The DUP must become the broad pro-Union church the UUP sought to be under its late dynamic leader, James Molyneaux.
The DUP must not adopt a policy of crushing what remains of the UUP at local government and Assembly level, but must hold out the olive branch of formal merger with the UUP – and any other unionist movements – to form a single party simply known as The Unionist Party.
This single, merged party must not only include the UUP, but also the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice party as well as the socialist-leaning Progressive Unionist Party.
In a post Brexit British Isles, the new-look DUP – or Unionist Party – must ensure all the Stormont institutions are restored, even if that means ‘supping soup with the devil again’; namely a deal with Sinn Fein.
The DUP/Unionist Party must box clever with Sinn Fein, especially as the republican party may well be a minority government partner with Fianna Fail after the next Dail General Election in the Republic.
The DUP/Unionist Party must establish a Unionist Embassy in Leinster House to persuade the Republic of the merits of rejoining the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association as a viable economic alternative power block to the cash-strapped European Union.
After Brexit, as the Republic becomes increasingly more isolated both financially and geographically, the DUP/Unionist Party must sing the praises of ‘Irexit’ – namely, the process of persuading the Republic to also leave the EU.
This will mean playing Sinn Fein at its own game with Sinn Fein campaigning for speaking rights for Northern Ireland Westminster MPs in the Dail. This Sinn Fein policy is a clear reaction to being outgunned by the DUP over the republican movement’s traditional tactic of abstentionism in the House of Commons.
Currently if implemented, this would give considerable credibility to Sinn Fein’s seven Northern Ireland MPs if it succeeded in getting speaking rights in the Dail. But imagine the impact if the 10 DUP MPs appeared at Leinster House demanding the same speaking provision?
If the DUP is now to be a major player in the national UK Parliament taking into consideration that Sinn Fein will not dump its outdated abstentionist policy, then the DUP must play the Commonwealth card at every opportunity. After all, Ireland – when the entire island was all under British rule – was a founder member of the original Empire Parliamentary Association in 1911.
- Follow John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter
"The DUP must remain as the voice of evangelical Christians."ReplyDelete
Sure, what could go wrong?
"The DUP must not adopt a policy of crushing what remains of the UUP at local government and Assembly level, but must hold out the olive branch of formal merger with the UUP – and any other unionist movements – to form a single party simply known as The Unionist Party.
This single, merged party must not only include the UUP, but also the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice party as well as the socialist-leaning Progressive Unionist Party."
The absolute LAST thing the Unionist community needs is for the diversity of political representation to be subsumed under a DUP Dane geld. That would not just be a backward step but a kamikaze leap into theocratic dictatorship! The smaller Unionists parties have a duty to keep these religious nutters in check. Even the TUV has a use as a benchmark for insanity.
But it's all commentary in the end. Despite their religious waffle they are tactically astute as evidenced by being Kingmaker's apparent in Westminster. I suppose the "Union is safe" now.
Pity it's controlled by those who want 18th Century Laws to apply.