Saturday , May 25 2024

The DUP – are caves really so bad?

So the Tories and the DUP have just signed the long-awaited confidence and supply deal. For those out of the loop, I’ve put a link here. There’s been a lot of anxiety surrounding the potential Conservative deal with the Democratic Unionists, and to be quite honest, I’ve had no sympathy with such anxieties of late. However, I thought I’d have a look in a little bit more detail, just to make sure the wool wasn’t being pulled over my own eyes, and to see what a Tory-DUP deal could really mean for the British government in (somewhat tentatively) the next five years.

The DUP was founded in 1971 by the Protestant loyalist politician Ian Paisley. Paisley himself has been varyingly called a fundamentalist and sectarian as well as hero and saviour, and there can be no denying his somewhat vitriolic style and passionate beliefs in non-mainstream views, such as the nature of the Pope as antichrist. But so be it, it’s a free country, and we are entitled to our opinions are we not? The party remains fairly socially conservative, opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion, and this of course attracts equally vitriolic comments from members of the left. One of the most common phrases I have heard on the news recently is “DUP get back in your cave”. Well excuse me, but I happen to quite like caves. They’re cool, tranquil, natural, and most importantly, these days completely devoid of people who use phrases such as “get back in your cave” as political arguments. So, regardless of the fact that they should have the right to be heard if they disagree about abortion and same-sex marriage, let’s see what it means for them to be in partnership with the Tories:

Nothing. Well, nothing meaningful anyway. The party has secured £1 billion in investment for Northern Ireland, which is really not much in terms of national budget such as the UK’s. If anything though, it’s a success for the DUP, and proves how much they care about the Northern Irish people’s standards of living. No Tory policy changes have been made in order to accommodate for the DUP, however, and what is important to remember here is that the DUP are not actually coalition partners in government, merely its official supporters. Policy making and decision making is still purely the Conservative Party’s domain; now of course, the Tories will have to take maintaining their agreement with the Democratic Unionists into account if they wish to create new policies, but in general, so long as Northern Ireland gets the promised money, and the Union is maintained, the DUP should remain fairly placated. I certainly don’t foresee any rolling back of LGBT or women’s rights anytime soon.

Even the DUP has moved away from its Christian roots in recent years. It is no longer run by the Protestant clerics themselves, and its members now rarely (at least in public) espouse such opinions as reintroduction of the death penalty, and closing the border with the Republic of Ireland. The very fact that the DUP has cooperated with their mortal enemies, Sinn Féin, for so long within the power-sharing arrangement is a sure virtue added to their credentials. For such staunch Unionists to work with those who desire the complete opposite to them in almost all policy areas is a sure sign of indomitable political will. The DUP remain one of the few truly conservative parties in the country, and whilst many of us Great British may view these conservative Irish as radically different to us, it is not exactly unknown for there to be conservative voices in mainstream society speaking out against socially progressive movements. If you’re a conservative and live in Northern Ireland, the DUP is probably one of the best political deals you can get, especially considering that major parties such as the Conservatives and Labour either refuse to stand candidates, or are too poorly recognised to have any success in Northern Irish constituencies.

Ultimately, we would do well to remind those who demand that the DUP “get back in their caves” that we are actually a United Kingdom. Part of being United involves respecting those we disagree with, and even working with them, as the Northern Irish unionists and republicans have proven does work since 1998. The DUP are by their very nature, believers in that Union, and as British citizens, we have a responsibility to preserve that Union for the benefit of our fellow citizens, including those in Northern Ireland who have felt increasingly ostracised and ignored by Westminster. I wish, oh I wish to God – would that we all recognise that not all of us are so privileged to live in the secure and peaceful world that is the mainland UK. Sometimes, when your very nation is threatened by those that would break it up, a certain steadfastness is required. That steadfastness is something we could all learn from Northern Ireland’s Unionists.

This post was originally published by the author on his personal blog:

About Alex Illingworth

Alex Illingworth lives in Oxford where he pursues studies in philosophy and theology, having previously studied Classics. He has written extensively on conservatism, and on British politics, and is a co-founder of the conservative blog aimed at students: The Burkean. His debut book in political philosophy "Political Justice" is a forthcoming publication with Arktos Media.

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