British Prime Minister Theresa May is looking to Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) for support in forming a new government now that the Conservative Party failed to get a majority.
The DUP, which won 10 seats in Thursday's voting, has emerged as the most likely partner to form a coalition government. The party has a bit of a reputation for its strong views.
May said that she looks forward to working with "our friends and allies" in the DUP. The party is the largest unionist political party in Northern Ireland. "Our two parties have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years, and this gives me the confidence to believe that we will be able to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom," May said, according to AP.
In recent history, the Conservative Party under John Major relied on the support of the Ulster Unionist Party to garner a majority in 1992-1997.
An interesting point to note is that Northern Ireland’s take on Brexit. It voted in favour of remaining inside the European Union in the EU referendum, going against the national trend.
Despite this trend, DUP is pro-Brexit, however, the party would prefer a "soft Brexit" over the "hard Brexit" that May favours, as it wants to preserve its open border with an EU member, the Republic of Ireland. “I make no apology for wanting the best for Northern Ireland and all of the union,” Guardian reports Arlene Foster’s statement in Belfast. Following Brexit, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would become an EU frontier and the DUP is not in favour of this “hard border”, which would enforce checkpoints and other intrusive measures. It would also impose tariffs and barriers between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, the Guardian report adds.
Despite this fact, BBC reports that DUP was the most Eurosceptic party in the UK, before the UK Independence Party (UKIP) took over the mantle. Similar to May’s party, the DUP is socially conservative. The party is controversial for its views on same-sex marriage. The party once championed a campaign called “Save Ulster from Sodomy”. It staunchly believes that the "traditional" definition of marriage should be upheld. The Independent chronicles party leader Forster’s views on this issue, “I could not care less what people get up to in terms of their sexuality, that’s not a matter for me – when it becomes a matter for me is when people try to redefine marriage.”
Another pressure point for the party is abortion. BBC states that abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland, except in specific medical cases. On these lines, DUP remains anti-abortion.
DUP's climate change views were also under the spotlight when the party appointed climate change denier Sammy Wilson as its environment minister. As quoted by Independent, Wilson said in 2014 that the United Kingdom was, “putting our agricultural industry in jeopardy because there is no greater producer of greenhouse gases than cows.”
With regards to their party manifesto, DUP has a five-point plan that it abides by. They are:
- Prioritise spending on health service
- Create more jobs and increase incomes
- Protect family budgets
- Raise standards in education for everyone
- Invest in infrastructure
The five-point plan is further expanded to 10 elements:
- More jobs and rising incomes
- A world class health service
- Education – every child the opportunity to succeed
- Rebuilding Northern Ireland
- Rewarding hard work
- Safer streets and smarter justice
- Creating stronger communities
- A friend of the farmer and our natural heritage
- Changing politics and government in Northern Ireland
- Taking pride in Northern Ireland
The DUP could put pressure on the Conservative Party to boost public spending in Northern Ireland, it will wish to ensure that Northern Ireland is given the same importance as the United Kingdom during Brexit talks.
Foster has not yet made a public commitment to joining a formal coalition or an informal alliance with the weakened Conservatives. "I certainly think that there will be contact made over the weekend but I think it is too soon to talk about what we're going to do," she said about the coalition.
With inputs from agencies.
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Updated Date: Jun 09, 2017 20:57:09 IST