Posted By: June 28, 2014


“….Knowing all this …  why do modern, thinking Unionists vote for a party with nutty ideas dominated by a tiny sect of hot gospellers and bible-bashers who comprise fewer than 0.1 per cent of Protestants here?
[ the ]tiny sect, the Free Presbyterians, with a total of 10,000 adherents, dominates the par

Brian Feeney. Irish News ( Belfast). Wednesday, June 25, 2014
LAST week Lord Morrow was the guest speaker at the AGM of the DUP’s Mid-Ulster branch. It’s the sort of mind-numbing occasion people in political parties have to endure and reports indicate that the meeting was exactly that. Morrow told the meeting, guess what, that Norn Irn needed strong DUP representation. Inspirational, eh? However, while his remarks were as dull as Mid-Ulster ditch water the meeting was of interest for other reasons. First, it was held in Desertmartin Orange Hall. No doubt that venue was to be convenient for many Fenian members of the branch from around Cullion and Slieve Gallion. Secondly, the main purpose of the AGM was of course to elect officers for the year: chair, secretary, treasurer etc. In this instance the ‘etc’ is revealing because after the normal branch officers we come to, wait for it, the chaplain.

Chaplain? DUP branches have chaplains? Are they all Free Presbyterians or would they permit the occasional Anglican, maybe round Portadown?

It was quite common until about 50 years ago for the old Nationalist party, or in the south, Fianna Fail, to have chaplains. Indeed the Nationalist party often had some local priestly panjandrum actually chairing the selection convention for a candidate to contest a parliamentary seat. That level of clerical involvement became unthinkable by the end of the 1950s.

Yet here in the 21st century we have what is in effect a religious sect masquerading as the largest party in the north. That picture was confirmed by the findings of a survey conducted for a book published last week, The DUP: From Protest to Power, by Jon Tonge and others. Forty per cent of the DUP’s councillors are Free Presbyterians. So are a substantial number of its assembly members and MPs. Blow-ins such as Jeffrey Donaldson and Arlene Foster have reduced the percentage but that tiny sect, the Free Presbyterians, with a total of 10,000 adherents dominates the party.

It’s a structure similar to Iran’s theocracy except that in the DUP’s case they gave the Ayatollah the heave-ho. Nevertheless we know the DUP’s leader is far from secular in his general outlook and we see its branches have their own imams. The DUP’s outlook, fundamentally influenced by the sect, means members hold views on social and societal matters that are so conservative and outdated they are unacceptable (and some illegal) in a modern European society. Ironically, many would be approved in Muslim Iran. Unlike Iran’s regime of course the DUP can’t hang people, though they would if they had the power.

Knowing all this, and it’s never been a secret, why do modern, thinking unionists vote for a party with nutty ideas dominated by a tiny sect of hot gospellers and bible-bashers who comprise fewer than 0.1 per cent of Protestants here?

The answer is they don’t. In fact most unionists don’t vote at all. The turnout in last month’s Euro election was 51 per cent, 636,093. Just over half of that number were unionists of various stripes, about 334,000 odd.

We don’t know why the majority of unionists don’t vote. It may be because they don’t think it matters, because nothing local politicians do can change their lives in any important way. It may be because they don’t feel threatened or challenged by present arrangements. On the other hand it may be because they can join the rest of the population in reviling the DUP and their ungrammatical idiocies by saying: ‘Well, I don’t know anyone who voted for them, I certainly didn’t.’ They may be alienated from what passes for unionist politics and embarrassed by the standard of unionist politicians.

In that case it’s a race to the bottom because no modern, thinking, liberal unionist will join the DUP given that they would have to subscribe to its theocratic ethos and the pervasive malign influence of the Orange Order. In fact when you stand back and look at it, you see that the DUP has turned into the Ulster Unionist Party of the 1950s, bigoted, benighted, backward and sectarian.

There will therefore be no attempt to widen its appeal because if that sterile depressing meeting in Desertmartin Orange Hall is anything to go by, the 21st century is anathema to the DUP.