This Sexist, Homophobic Far-Right Party Just Became Power Players In The U.K. Government

The DUP from Northern Ireland could be behind Theresa May’s new government.

June 09, 2017
This Sexist, Homophobic Far-Right Party Just Became Power Players In The U.K. Government DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds (second left) celebrates with Peter Robinson (center) and Gavin Robinson (second right) after his win as the General Election count takes place in Belfast, Northern Ireland. May 8, 2015.   Photo by Charles McQuillan for Getty Images

The results of the 2017 U.K. general election defied pollsters and conventional political wisdom to deliver Tory losses, Labour gains, and a hung parliament. Theresa May's Conservatives took 318, eight short of an outright majority, while Jeremy Corbyn lead a resurgent Labour Party to 261 seats.

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On Friday morning, Theresa May announced that she would seek to form a coalition government with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a far-right party in Northern Island with ten seats. DUP's leader Arlene Foster subsequently confirmed her party would "enter discussions" with the Tories. Literally overnight, DUP has risen from the margins to the centre of British politics.

Here are a few points you should know about the DUP's history and politics.

The DUP is skeptical of climate change

Northern Ireland's current and previous environment ministers have been members of the DUP. Michelle McIlveen, Northern Ireland's current environment minister, declined to introduce climate change legislation last year. Sammy Wilson, who previous held the title, has denounced climate change as a "con." Last month, he praised President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, calling it a "delusion" for "green lefties."

It vetoed same-sex marriage

In 2015, The DUP used a procedural maneuver to veto marriage equality legislation, and declared a "moral victory" as Northern Ireland became the only territory in the U.K. without same-sex marriage.

Abortion in Northern Island is inaccessible thanks to the party

The DUP are one of the biggest obstacles to comprehensive women's health services in Northern Ireland. Its members uniformly opposed decriminalizing certain birth control, and David Simpson, DUP MP for Upper Barn, called for a review of "abortion laws right across the UK" after his recent election.

It has historical links to terrorism

The Ulster Resistance was a paramilitary organization that formed in Northern Ireland in response to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, a treaty that sought to end the decades of civil war known as the Troubles.

In January 1988, the Ulster Resistance were caught smuggling dozens of rocket launchers, assault rifles, grenades and other armaments. Several of its members went on to become major figures in the DUP, including Peter Robinson, who led the party until last year.

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But it's not all ancient history. DUP leader Arlene Foster was criticized last week for meeting with members of another paramilitary organization, the Ulster Defence Association, that stands accused of organizing the murder of a political rival.

The irony of a Conservative/DUP alliance is strong, after a campaign in which Theresa May accused Jeremy Corbyn of links to various terrorist groups.

The Conservative's Brexit plans could get complicated

The DUP have opposed the "hard Brexit" favored by many Conservatives and UKIPs. "What we want to see is a workable plan to leave the European Union," Arlene Foster has said. Her party is against a hard border in Ireland.

This Sexist, Homophobic Far-Right Party Just Became Power Players In The U.K. Government