The DUP derive from the dark underbelly of Britain's colonial past

The DUP's horrific politics aren't alien to British values. They epitomise them.

Kylie Noble
15 June 2017

Orange walk in Bangor. By Ross.

As a left-wing, Northern Irish woman, whose bodily autonomy is held to ransom by the DUP (although it must be said the majority of Northern Irish parties have poor track records on abortion rights, if admittedly, the DUP are the most hard-line), I am of course, disgusted at Theresa May's coalition plans. 

The decision exposes the profound levels to which Britain is ignorant about the reality of life under the theocratic DUP. The DUP have been the largest party in the Northern Irish Assembly, for 16 years but there has been, largely, radio silence on these human rights denials, within the UK. That is, until it seems like these polices could affect those who live in Great Britain.

The well-meaning journalist, Paul Mason, tweeted on June 10, "What would be a good month for tens of thousands of us to march through Belfast defending abortion rights? Suggestions anyone?" He was, rightly, called out by many Northern Irish activists; don't impose upon a movement which has been operating for decades, tirelessly, led by women who live in fear of a Victorian law that could see them jailed. Come to the marches being led by those most affected, instead of trying to become a much belated, saviour. 

The left in Britain are right to be outraged at the DUP's attitudes to same sex marriage and abortion access, but these are rights people in Britain have already gained and in which fierce political and public opposition to them being curtailed, exists; it is unlikely the DUP’s involvement in government will cause these rights to recede in Britain. But it does mean that it's increasingly unlikely that there will be any progress towards gaining them in Northern Ireland. 

It is telling too, that the coverage in Britain only glances in passing, at how this Westminster deal will impact the peace process and our current political impasse. Talks have resumed, to try and get power-sharing back into operation, after Sinn Féin pulled the plug due to a botched heating homes corruption scandal was exposed, with Arlene Foster at its core. We have gone 5 months without an Assembly, with Sinn Féin citing the main points of contention in talks so far, being the DUP's resistance to permit same-sex marriage (five times they have prevented it from passing into law) and to an Irish Language Act (a commitment the DUP signed up to in the St Andrews Agreement of 2006).

The chair of the talks continues to be re-appointed Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, who during the election campaign made an unprecedented interjection on legacy matters, putting to Jeremy Corbyn various questions-urging him to single out IRA violence, as so much more worse than the British State's. The implication of this attitude is that innocent civilians killed by the British Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and loyalists (often working in collusion with the state) are deemed to be lives of less value.

The British government likes to present itself as neutral in relation to Northern Ireland, when in fact it bears great historical responsibility for the sectarian divisions and history of discrimination and violence. Some of the most galling reactions to the unexpected parachuting of the DUP into mainstream British politics has been the cries from liberal progressives, of "this is not who we are, this is alien to Britishness." The ugly truth is, that the DUP stem from an imperial history which – from Ireland to South Africa, to India, across indeed, the majority of the world – is very much a part of Britishness. 

Northern Ireland was formed out of 6 of the 9 regions of Ulster. Ulster was the province of Ireland, most resistant to the plantations, hence, it was doubly colonialised. In simple terms, this means far more Protestant settlers from Britain moved to Ulster, than the rest of Ireland, in the 17th Century. They are indeed, my ancestors; my father's family come from England, my mother’s, from Scotland. The migration was not accidental, and was part of a system designed to create a superior Protestant, unionist, British populace to rule for Britain’s benefit, economically, and whom had status and rights denied to the native Irish. So, is it surprising, that in 2017 we have leading Northern Ireland, a Christian, devoutly British unionist party which finds moral justification for denying rights to minorities? 

So, join us in being outraged at the DUP. But there is cause too for Britain as a nation to reflect more deeply on its own role in producing the supremacy which underpins the DUP’s politics.

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