As a gay man in Northern Ireland, I am a second-class citizen in the most Unionist part of the United Kingdomby Stephen Donnan-Dalzell / August 30, 2018 / Leave a comment
By now you’ve probably heard of the DUP—most likely because of their out-of-the-blue Parliamentary deal to save Theresa May’s skin after the 2017 General Election where she managed to snatch Conservative defeat from the jaws of victory. ButBrexit aside, the DUP isn’t really that important to you if you live in London or Aberdeen. They’re just a weird little Northern Irish political party with only ten seats in the House of Commons with some funny views on abortion and gays.
But as a Unionist living in Northern Ireland, and a gay one at that, the DUP is probably the single biggest issue facing me and my community—and have been since time eternal. Originating in 1971 as the brainchild of the late Reverend Ian Paisley, the party has remained closely linked with the Free Presbyterian Church and draws much of its support from a religious, evangelical-fundamentalist base. This is a key point when considering the complete opposition of the party to supporting any progressive legislation for LGB&T people.
They may be new to the consciousness of most Westminster-watchers, but for over twenty years the DUP has been at the helm of political power and legislative control in Northern Ireland. Since 2007, they were the larger partner in the power-sharing Executive with Sinn Féin that spectacularly came crashing down under the leadership of Arlene Foster in January of last year.
Efforts by successive Secretaries of State to reboot that Assembly have failed to get off the ground. No Government has been formed and unable to pass legislation. Legal battles like marriage equality, access to abortion, or a reformed Gender Recognition Act all remain out of reach due to the flatlined Assembly—and a Conservative Government in Westminster that is both apathetic and tied to the puppet strings of the DUP.
As a gay man with a Unionist background, I grew up always being told to support the DUP without question. A vote for the DUP was not necessarily a vote against the extension of reproductive rights to Northern Ireland, nor was it a tactical vote to stop lesbian and gay couples from getting married. To many, it was a vote against a creeping Nationalist boogeyman that was always lurking over the hill, ready to plunder…