Theresa May has formally agreed a deal with Northern Ireland’s anti-gay Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which will see them support her minority Conservative government for the duration of the next parliament.
The prime minister has offered an additional £1bn for Northern Ireland in exchange for support on key votes from the DUP, who have consistently opposed equal rights for LGBT+ people in the region.
The deal, which was signed today at 10 Downing Street (June 26), comes two weeks after the general election saw the prime minister lose her majority in the House of Commons, resulting in a hung parliament.
Under the terms of the agreement – which is a “confidence and supply” arrangement and not a formal coalition – the DUP’s 10 MP will support the government in parliamentary votes relating to the Budget, Brexit, and legislation contained within the Queen’s speech.
Support on other legislation will be agreed “on a case by case basis”.
The agreement will remain in place for the duration of the current parliament, and can be reviewed at any time with the mutual consent of both parties.
DUP leader Arene Foster – who last year vowed to continue blocking the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland – said her party’s agreement with the Conservatives would provide “stable government” in UK’s “national interest”.
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) June 26, 2017
Theresa May also welcomed the government’s deal with a party which has for years deprived LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland their basic rights, saying: “We share many values in terms of wanting to see prosperity across the UK, the value of the union, the important bond between the different parts of the UK.”
“We very much want to see that protected and enhanced and we also share the desire to ensure a strong government, able to put through its programme and provide for issues like the Brexit negotiations, but also national security issues.”
Founded in the early 1970s by evangelical Protestant minister and loyalist Ian Paisley, the DUP has a long and well-documented history of opposing LGBT equality.
In 1977 it launched the ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ campaign, which sought to prevent the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland, and in recent years the party has repeatedly blocked the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, which remains the only region in the UK where gay people are denied the right to marry.
In November 2015, a historic breakthrough appeared to have been reached when a majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to legalise marriage equality, only for the DUP to effectively veto the measure under the terms of Stormont’s power-sharing agreement.
After talks between the Conservative party and DUP began earlier this month, it emerged that Arlene Foster actively sought to prevent same-sex North Irish couples from getting married in Scotland following the legalisation of equal marriage there in 2015.
As the DUP’s atrocious record on LGBT+ equality came under increased scrutiny in the wake of the general election, Arlene Foster dismissed accusations that the party was homophobic.
She told ITV News: “There’s been a lot of hyperbole talked about our position to the gay community. Much of it is complete and utter nonsense, I have to say.
“We take a particular view in relation to the definition of marriage; that does not mean in any one way that we are homophobic.”
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