THE POLITICAL WING OF THE OLD TESTAMENT...>

Posted: 2017-06-23

THE DUP have recently come in for a lot of stick from sections of the British media and some politicians. In the Commons the Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas referred to them as dinosaurs. She complained about the absence of environmental policies in the Queen's Speech and asked if Theresa May had been influenced by her new potential allies.


THE DUP have recently come in for a lot of stick from sections of the British media and some politicians.  In the Commons the Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas referred to them as ‘dinosaurs’. She complained about the absence of environmental policies in the Queen’s Speech and asked if Theresa May had been influenced by her new potential allies. DUP members raised their objections to the remark with speaker John Bercow, but he said that it was ‘not unparliamentary but a matter of taste’. Lucas later apologised in a tweet ‘for any offence caused to prehistoric creatures’.

 

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with no legally binding climate change targets in place. In December 2016 the then-environment minister and DUP member for Strangford Michelle McIlveen blocked efforts to introduce a Climate Change Act. Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Alliance Party all backed the introduction of a bill. Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland Director James Orr has said: “There have been a series of attempts to get climate legislation here over the last ten years. The DUP are the most reluctant party to embrace greenhouse gas reduction targets”.

 

The most vocal climate change sceptic in the DUP is Sammy Wilson, who used to teach and examine Economics. He has referred to environmentalists as ‘Green Luddites’. He was appointed Environment Minister in 2008. Within a year cross-party MPs had called for his resignation for banning TV and radio adverts by the UK government that encouraged people to cut their carbon emissions. He called the adverts ‘propaganda’. He also said that the climate change debate was a ‘giant con’ and a waste of billions of pounds, surrounded by a degree of ‘fairly uninformed hysteria’. Now, while climate change scepticism is not official party policy, the fact that the DUP appointed a denier as environment minister suggests that at least some in the DUP agree with Sammy Wilson. Where are the DUP members who support the scientific consensus that climate change is real and a danger to the planet? Echo answers: where? If the DUP complain about English stereotyping of the party, why then do they singularly refuse to oppose Sammy Wilson’s ‘dinosaur’ opinion?

 

Then there is the issue of Creationism. In a radio interview in 2007, Edwin Poots, then culture minister, openly and proudly proclaimed his own belief that the world was created in 4004 BC and accused scientists like Richard Dawkins of wanting to ‘indoctrinate everyone with evolution’. Poots is far from being alone. Other prominent members, including Mervyn Storey and Nelson McCausland, have tried to have creationism represented in the Ulster Museum and the Giant’s Causeway Visitors’ Centre. In a Belfast Telegraph survey in 2013 about 40% of DUP activists believed that creationism should be taught in science classes. So, again, it has to be asked, where are the prominent DUP members who oppose this unscientific nonsense?

 

In Frankie Boyle’s New World Order (BBC 2, 16th June), the Scottish comedian and writer referred to the DUP as the ‘political wing of the Old Testament’. Not only would this judgment appear to be confirmed by its views on global warming and creationism; it would also seem to accord with its general opinion on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage and its general ethic of an Eye for an Eye rather than the turned cheek. On gay rights, the DUP has opposed every single measure in the UK since the 1960s to liberalise the laws on homosexuality. Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK where same-sex marriage is illegal because the DUP has used the petition of concern against it. It also has councillors who claim that homosexuality ‘can be cured’ and who want to ban plays and paintings that offend their puritan morality.

 

In the June UK general election the DUP received 292,316 votes. Are all these people climate deniers?Misogynists? Homophobes? Creationists? Brexiteers? The answer is no. But many who vote DUP think that the dinosaur image is a price worth paying to ‘keep the other lot out’. It is a sectarian vote. The DUP may deny any sectarian charge. It may protest that it has changed radically since the days its leader proclaimed that Catholics bred like rabbits and the pope was the anti-Christ. There may be some truth in this, but it also needs to prove that it has joined the 21st century. Is it capable of espousing progressive modern values and modern science? If not, those English politicians and journalists are right to argue against its toxic embrace.