Who are the DUP? Extreme social conservatives who have blocked gay marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland

Britain could be headed for an even more regressive government than the last


Theresa May has announced that she will form a government with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, meaning that the most regressive and socially conservative party in Britain is about to form part of its government.

This is the real coalition of chaos.

Lots of people won’t know much about the DUP, so here are a few of their worst policies in recent years.

Absolute opposition to abortion

The fact that women in Northern Ireland have no right to an abortion has a lot to do with the DUP. They have opposed any attempts to liberalise the law on reproductive rights, forcing thousands of Northern Irish women to travel for terminations elsewhere, or to rely on abortion pills bought online.

Blocking marriage equality

The Northern Irish assembly has repeatedly voted to allow same-sex couples to marry in recent years, but the DUP has used a veto mechanism to prevent any law coming into effect.

Cash for Ash

DUP leader Arlene Foster is mired in scandal in Northern Ireland, having overseen a government programme that spectacularly misused public funds. As environment minister, she introduced a renewable energy scheme that subsidised the use of pellet-burning biomass boilers for energy. Unfortunately, she neglected to put an upper limit on the pay-outs, leading to reports of farmers getting paid to heat empty sheds. The projected overspend was at least £400m.

Climate change denial

While climate change scepticism is not official party policy, the DUP did once appoint a denier as Northern Ireland environment minister, and it counts a number of creationists among its senior members. The party’s manifesto for this election made no mention of the environment or climate change.


Northern Ireland voted to Remain in the EU with a majority of 56 per cent to 44. The DUP was the only major party to back Leave, despite the obvious threats Brexit poses to the Northern Irish economy, the peace process and the border with the Republic of Ireland. In government, they would ally themselves with the hard Brexit wing of the Tory party.


May will be hoping that public ignorance of their policies and history will prevent any significant backlash. But progressives know that we are now facing an even more regressive government than the last one — and that it must be held to account at every turn.

Niamh Ni Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

10 Responses to “Who are the DUP? Extreme social conservatives who have blocked gay marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland”

  1. barry

    This desicion shows two things, the eagerness of the political mind to hang onto power at all costs and secondly, the obsequos rise to power of the totalitarian mind.How long this marriage of political asperity will last, is open for debate but , ostensibly at least , we have a budding situation where the United Kingdom will be governed by the will of an off shore splinter group. Not good.

  2. Craig Mackay

    Surely you’re not suggesting that the combination of the Tories plus the DUP might give us a “coalition of chaos”?

  3. Alasdair Macdonald

    Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin you now have the opportunity to campaign for your hero, Ms Ruth Davidson. There is wall-to-wall coverage of the ‘assurance’ she has received from Mrs May that the DUP’s execrable (and it is execrable to decent people across the political spectrum) policy on same-sex marriage will not be adopted. Thus the myth of her ‘liberal’ credentials are confirmed.

    Today, we have the Blairite counter revolution starting with Mr Chris Leslie pouring cold water on Labour’s achievement in the recent election as ‘not enough’. Labour in Scotland had to be pressed several times on whether any of its 7 MPs would service in the Shadow Cabinet and eventually gave a less-than-unequivocal statement.

    The Tories have realised quickly that the association with the DUP will be toxic for many reasons. (It was probably another of ‘strong-and-stable’s’ panicky, on-the-hoof decisions.) So, once a Queen’s Speech is passed the DUP will be jettisoned. Mrs May will resign (‘health reasons’ ‘diabetic’, strain of her valiant election campaign’ etc. An interim leader will be installed, like Sir Michael Fallon, who is clearly ‘interim’. Mrs May will resign her Maidenhead seat. Ms Davidson will be adopted as the candidate, elected and, after a short while, elected leader – “gay, female, socially liberal, feisty, common sense, no nonsense, hammer of the Nats, proven leader in Scotland, etc.” It is a good marketing pitch.

    Meanwhile, 10/15 Blairites resign the Labour whip and form an ‘SDP’ type group who support the government on a confidence-and-supply basis. The government would have a working majority of 20/30, enough to cope with a huffy DUP backlash.

    After a short period where ‘strong-and-stable’ Ruth Davidson is lauded by all the media, including LFF, an election is called …… “Strong and Stable versus a friend of terrorists whom his own party hate’ (deja vu????)

    Will the electorate buy it? They rejected it this week.

    Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin – your views please?

  4. Marcus van der Voorn

    At least with the DUP some common sense returns into the Westminster government on the issue of climate change, or as I prefer to call it anthropogenic global warming.
    Anthropogenic global warming is more of a religion than substantiated by science or empirical data (hard evidence).
    On other issues like gay marriage and other rights for this specific group I could not even disagree more with the DUP. Those people are genetically determined to be gay, just as a straight or bisexual person is genetically determined to be straight or bisexual. They are just as creatures of God as straight people are. So who are we (the so called straight people) to deny those people the same rights as we bestow on straight people (marriage, registered partnership and child adoption)?
    And on the question whether this alliance between the Tories and the DUP will last?
    Why not, as long as common sense in this case will prevail(give and take), it can take as long as 5 years (the official tenure of the Westminster parliament).

  5. patrick newman

    Marcus, “straight” as opposed to …?
    With or without the DUP you can say good bye to fox slaughter for pleasure, grammar schools, possibly free schools, removal of free school meals for the very young, ending of triple lock and winter fuel allowance, etc.
    It is easy to underestimate the impact the DUP arrangement will have on power sharing and, most worrying, the whole peace process.
    I see the climate change deniers have discovered this site!

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