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Why do people in Northern Ireland vote for the homophobic DUP?

Out News Globals Northern Ireland writer, Nora Calder explores why she thinks the DUP still gets the vote..and no actually, her family is Protestant.

When a close family member told me they voted DUP I felt a profound sorrow, I’m much too conscious of the DUP’s deep-rooted abhorrence of the LGBT+ community for that not to hurt.

Most of my friends and family who vote for the DUP would never tell me. I know who they are though and this makes me feel a sense of isolation, distrust, anger, frustration and sadness.

By the hands of the DUP, I cannot choose to marry my girlfriend of 5 years. Though 70% of people polled in Northern Ireland support marriage equality and though it has been voted through Stormont more than once, the DUP alone blocks it time and again using a mechanism called the ‘petition of concern’. The mechanism was intended to protect minority cultures and the vulnerable from being rail-roaded by politicians. Instead, prejudiced politicians are now using it to attack a vulnerable minority. Such is the often infuriating eccentricity of Northern Irish politics.

I’m confident that I one day I will be afforded the human right of marriage in Northern Ireland and when that time comes I know I’ll sit at my top table, looking at those I love so dearly and I’ll wonder, how many of you voted for the DUP? How many of you stood with the DUP in the way of my marriage for so many years?

Those living outside Northern Ireland have only lately come to see the true colours of the homophobic DUP. The party was shot to  the centre stage of British politics when Theresa May made her devil’s pact to prop up her government after she lost seats in her ill-fated snap election.

As soon as people on the mainland realised that Theresa’s so-called Nasty Party had teamed up with an even nastier party…The first question on everyone’s mind was, ‘Why the hell are you still voting for this bunch of cretins?’

The answer, I believe, is Fear and Ignorance.

Fear

If the DUP weren’t the largest party in Northern Ireland, there would only be one alternative: Sinn Féin…the Catholic party, synonymous for many Protestants with the IRA and the troubles and certainly not seen as a friend to anyone who supports the Union of Northern Ireland with the UK.

DUP party leader Arlene Foster instilled fear into the public before the election insisting that Sinn Féin had really been focused on “Gerry Adams’ plan to bring forward a radical Republican agenda in Northern Ireland. The more votes that Sinn Féin gets in this election the more capacity he will have to try to deliver that plan.”

For Unionists in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin represent a leap towards a United Ireland.

The votes that flood in for the DUP and Sinn Féin based on fear are often from those who understand politics and aren’t ignorant to what a vote for each party really means.

One of Northern Ireland’s many sectarian murals

The Troubles

Northern Ireland’s bloody past continues to dictate Northern Ireland’s segregated future.

The truth is the Troubles have left behind bitter walls, phyisical and mental.

Speaking from a working class protestant background I have seen the bitter sectarianism that still exists, young people blindly following marching bands, voting for the DUP and seeing Catholics as ‘The other side.’

As informed as these voters believe they are, they’re in fact just blinded by generational hatred.

This same ignorance exists on both sides. I use this term with the sound understanding that there are two sides regardless of what the people of Northern Ireland want to believe.

If there weren’t two sides, we wouldn’t still be governed by the DUP despite their homophobia and the RHI scandal. (£500 million of taxpayer money up in smoke under Arlene Foster’s watch).

One of the huge Belfast bonfires built by the Protestant community every July

Living in Northern Ireland

Although I was brought up in a Protestant area largely dominated by Loyalist paramilitaries I had the blessing of parents who sent me to an integrated school. A Dad who walked with the Orange Lodge and a Mum who sat with her wine on the 11th bonfire night listening to the Dubliners.

I was brought up to speak up, having a leading woman’s rights advocate as a Mother definitely helped. I might have lived in an area where people practically bowed to thuggish paramilitary men and had a frankly disturbing respect for them (in fact in some places they still do) but I would never follow suit, to me they are criminals, the vermin of society.

These vermin instil hatred and fear on both sides of the community and it works, still. Along with this comes the encouragement to vote for the DUP or Sinn Féin. The religious divide on a bigger platform.

I leave you with these quotes from leading figures in the DUP:

 

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 – Arlene Foster

Arlene Foster, DUP leader against marriage equality…and perhaps political transparency

I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong. I think that those people harm themselves and – without caring about it – harm society. That doesn’t mean to say that I hate them – I mean, I hate what they do. – Ian Paisley Jnr

Ian Paisley Jnr. Like father, like son. Maintaining a family tradition of bigotry?

The facts show that certainly you don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship … that a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected … in a non-stable marriage – Jim Wells

DUP Politician Jim Wells…just odd.

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