Sunday 22 October 2017

Wheeler-dealer DUP, kingmakers for now but their day in the sun could be short-lived

Kingmakers: Nigel Dodds points to DUP leader Arlene Foster as they hold a photocall with their newly-elected candidates. Photo: Getty Images
Kingmakers: Nigel Dodds points to DUP leader Arlene Foster as they hold a photocall with their newly-elected candidates. Photo: Getty Images

Fergal Keane

And so it was that once more the people of the big island discovered that a sizeable lump of the smaller island next door might hold their destiny coiled among its dreary steeples. Many have taken fright. Mrs May's putative supporters in the DUP are being described as dinosaurs, anti-gay bigots, climate change deniers and much else.

I reported on the DUP up close for quite a few years. It thrived by presenting itself as the defender of protestantism at a time when the Provos gave Ulster protestants plenty to be afraid of. I also know well the anti-Catholic nastiness that motivated many of its prominent members in the past. For the greater part of its existence the DUP existed as a negative force in Ulster politics. It existed as the party of 'No Surrender' and helped mire the North in misery.

Its founder, Ian Paisley, began as a bigot - read the history, the words and you will see I state a fact and not an opinion - who fanned flames that helped lead to the outbreak violence in Northern Ireland. Like his former 'Chuckle Brother' Martin McGuinness he came to the point of compromise much too late. I remember too the Ulster Clubs of the mid 1980s with the implicit threat of thuggery supported by the DUP leadership. The image of Peter Robinson in his red beret was a deliberate declaration of solidarity with men who - like their forebears in 1912 - threatened anti-democratic upheaval against the British state.

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