The prospect of a coalition of this kind is an unprecedented oneby Siobhan Fenton / June 9, 2017 / Leave a comment
After one of the greatest acts of miscalculation in electoral history, Theresa May’s big gamble has backfired spectacularly and the Conservatives are now standing on the precipice a hung-parliament. All eyes are now on the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, which has confirmed it will agree to prop up a Tory government. The party won ten seats last night—one of its best election results ever.
Northern Ireland seldom featured in the election campaign, yet the smallest region of the UK now looks set to hold the balance of power in the national government. But at what cost to Northern Ireland—and with what impact on British politics?
Although political behemoths in Northern Ireland, the DUP are little known across the Irish Sea. They are staunch unionists, who identify as British and see their main role as ensuring Northern Ireland remains in the UK.
Their secondary focus is on preserving what they consider to be traditional Christian values. They have vetoed marriage equality for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland—with a track record of members making incendiary comments—and also support the region’s abortion ban, which sees women given prison sentences for having one.
An alliance between the DUP and Conservatives will have a number of serious ramifications both for Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole. First of all, the Conservatives will come under fire for entering a partnership with a party which is by all accounts regressive, homophobic and misogynistic. Due to the corner May has backed herself and her party into, it is criticism she may have no choice but to swallow in order to remain in power.
The second major impact of joint-DUP rule for Britain will come in the form of Brexit. The DUP is a staunchly pro-Brexit party. In fact, it is the only one of the mainstream Northern Irish parties to back Brexit, despite the region itself voting to remain in the EU. For the DUP, Brexit is seen as favourable not only due to its policies on immigration and trade, but also due to its commitment to Unionism. Many in the DUP would like to see greater barriers, both physical and bureaucratic, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as this would make them feel safer about Northern Ireland remaining in the UK…