Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 14 June 2017

Northern Ireland: DUP propping up the Tories

Arlene Foster, leader of the bigoted, sectarian DUP, photo by Richter Frank-Jurgen/CC

Arlene Foster, leader of the bigoted, sectarian DUP, photo by Richter Frank-Jurgen/CC   (Click to enlarge)

For a real cross-community socialist alternative

Daniel Waldron, Socialist Party Northern Ireland (CWI Ireland)

Theresa May's humiliating failure to win a parliamentary majority has placed the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) at the centre of UK politics, with the party set to prop up the Tories through a 'confidence and supply' agreement.

Many in Britain and Northern Ireland are horrified that a party with such homophobic and sexist positions will have influence at the heart of government.

However, while the DUP leadership are reactionaries, they are also pragmatists. They will not push to roll back LGBT and women's rights in Britain, or undermine them further in Northern Ireland, knowing the public would not tolerate it and the Tories could not deliver it. Nor would it be supported by their voters.

The DUP's support is primarily based upon being seen as the strongest voice for the Union, not its fundamentalist agenda. For example, a majority of DUP voters support same-sex marriage; 73% support some reform of our archaic abortion laws, while 49% support full decriminalisation!

The DUP is not alone in holding a backward position on the issue of reproductive rights - while a majority in both communities support the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, this is not supported by any of the main parties.

Relying on the DUP is obviously far from perfect for the Tories but, given the blow they have just been dealt and with Labour rising in the polls, they will not want a fresh election any time soon.

For its part, the DUP does not want to see a Corbyn-led government - both because they oppose his left policies and because of his long-standing connection with Sinn Féin - and will have little interest in rocking the boat.

DUP demands

It will likely keep its demands relatively limited: funding for some pet infrastructure projects and for security, as well as other monies so they can claim to have 'delivered for Northern Ireland'; guarantees there will be no hard border post-Brexit, as ironic as that may seem; and verbal commitments on issues like the extension of the Military Covenant (a government promise to look after former members of the armed forces and their families) to Northern Ireland.

However, it is an inherently unstable arrangement. The DUP can face opposition from its working class base if it is seen to facilitate ongoing austerity in Northern Ireland and can be pressured to make other demands the Tories simply cannot concede to. For example, elements within the Orange Order are already calling for them to push for the abolition of the Parades Commission.

Countless issues and pressures can bring this arrangement crashing down, not least organised working class opposition.

In response to the DUP's now central role, there have been renewed calls from some quarters for Sinn Féin to abandon its abstentionist position and take its seats in Westminster, believing this would strengthen the 'progressive' forces in parliament and, potentially, Jeremy Corbyn.

Sinn Féin is not a progressive party, but the other side of the sectarian coin. Like the DUP, its support is derived from being seen as the most strident voice for 'its community'. Sinn Féin too would use its seats in the House of Commons to inject its divisive, sectarian and nationalist agenda, not to fight for a left government.

Despite its rhetoric, Sinn Féin has ideologically embraced neoliberalism. It has dutifully implemented cuts, committed itself to the project of shrinking the public sector in Northern Ireland and campaigned alongside the DUP for a cut in corporation tax. It is also, as the late Martin McGuinness put it, an 'anti-abortion party'.

Negotiations to re-establish the Stormont institutions are set to recommence, with a formal deadline of 29 June before fresh Assembly elections have to be called, although this is likely to be swept aside.

The DUP's new role at a UK level has the potential to further complicate matters. Sinn Féin and its leader Michelle O'Neill will question more vocally whether the British government can now act as a neutral arbiter.

Given her strengthened mandate, Arlene Foster will not be standing aside as DUP leader until after the RHI ('cash for ash' ministerial scandal) inquiry, as Sinn Féin had demanded.

Historic opportunity

In Britain, the prospect of a left-wing government is now firmly on the agenda in the near future. Meanwhile, sectarianism has strengthened its hold in Northern Ireland.

The high turnout here, reflected a weary sense of obligation to vote against 'the other side', not enthusiasm. All eyes were turned to the battle between Corbyn and May, with socialist ideas being discussed in a way not seen in a generation.

Unfortunately, there was no genuinely cross-community vehicle for this hope and support to find expression at the polls in Northern Ireland. Fresh Assembly and Westminster elections are possible within a matter of months and local elections are scheduled for early 2019.

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland has swelled and shifted to the left under Corbyn's leadership but is still barred from standing official candidates. In the event of fresh elections, Labour activists here must make a decisive stand, even if this means defying the London leadership and acting independently. The alternative is to surrender the field to the forces of sectarian reaction.

The Socialist Party worked with others to launch Labour Alternative ahead of last year's Assembly election, to put the idea of building a mass, cross-community left party on the agenda.

The labour movement is the only force which has the potential to turn the tide away from sectarian division. In the coming weeks, we will aim to bring together all those who recognise that 'labour can't wait', to put forward the strongest possible anti-sectarian voice for those looking towards Corbyn's socialist policies in future elections.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 14 June 2017:

Socialist Party news and analysis

City bosses' £40m bonuses as Number of food banks hits 2,000

Low-paid work till lunch to make rent

Young workers in unions earn 20% more

Corbyn surge beats Trump

General election 2017

May and Tories must go!

Northern Ireland: DUP propping up the Tories

Scotland - SNP loses but Labour could've won more

Wales: Corbyn's left surge refutes right-wing Labour doomsayers

General election: what you thought about it

Corbyn's support increases further during last week of campaign

Rallying in support of Corbyn's policies

Large turnout to hear Jeremy Corbyn

International socialist news and analysis

France - Huge voter abstention belies Macron's 'landslide' election

International news in brief

Socialist Party workplace news

NSSN conference: workers' action to kick out the Tories

GMB conference: angry mood from delegates

LSE victory

Window strikers joined by second plant

Exploited agency workers organise

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

The fight goes on - let's make it a socialist fight to win

Racist EDL humiliated for third time

From Militant to the Socialist Party


Home   |   The Socialist 14 June 2017   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:

Northern Ireland:

triangleCaerphilly Socialist Party: Is peace in Northern Ireland threatened by Brexit?

triangleNorthern Ireland talks process paralysed

triangleThe Socialist inbox

triangleBrexit deal no solution to Tory rifts

triangleBoeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs


triangleBristol South Socialist Party: How can socialists take the fight against the Tories to the people of Bristol?

triangleSocialist Party congress 2018

triangleProfits up Wages down

triangleSpring Statement 2018: Tory austerity staggers on despite economic and political weakness


triangleSalford Socialist Party: The history of the Labour movement in Ireland

triangleFighting sexism, violence and capitalism - an international struggle

triangleIrish capitalist state: rotten to the core


triangleManchester Socialist Party: Northern Irish politics and the DUP

triangleWeakened Tories forced into Northern Ireland abortion u-turn

Socialist Alternative:

triangleUSA: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis


triangleYork Socialist Party: Building and financing a revolutionary party


triangleRussia, spies and nerve agents


triangleLeicester: Blairites block Labour Party democracy


triangleItalian elections create huge political shake-up


triangleGripping spy thriller exposes hypocrisy of Falklands/Malvinas war


triangleMay's EU speech kicks the can down the road


triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: The DUP, Northern Ireland, and socialism vs sectarianism

Theresa May:

triangleCapitalists fear for their system at Davos

Jeremy Corbyn:

triangleWhole lotta shakin' goin' on in DOO dispute


triangleAustralia: massive yes vote for marriage equality

Labour Party:

triangle15 years since the invasion of Iraq: what we said

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Russia, spies and nerve agents



Zero new homes 'affordable' in Blairite Manchester



Spring Statement 2018: Tory austerity staggers on despite economic and political weakness


What we saw

What we saw



Sainsbury's raise really a cut: fight for £10 with no strings!



Profits up Wages down



Determined UCU strikers: We're out to win!



Capitalism oppresses women - fight for socialism!


Them & Us

Them & Us



Women's oppression: the struggle goes on



Snow chaos showed the bosses' coldness - but also workers' grit



May's EU speech kicks the can down the road



Toys R Us, Maplin: worsening retail crisis claims more jobs



Corbyn's customs union dividing line: now stand firm for pro-worker Brexit



Corbynism shows 'Clause IV' still relevant a hundred years on

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018