Meet the GOP of Northern Ireland Skip to content

Meet the GOP of Northern Ireland

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“Is there any political party in another democratic country as far right-wing as the Republicans are under Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell?” one of my best and brightest former students asked me the other day.

“Yes,” I said, reminding him of the deal Theresa May, Britain’s Tory prime minister, cut with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to keep her in power. All but unheard of stateside, the reactionary, Northern Ireland-based DUP is nearly a carbon copy of the GOP.

“The DUP in government is like having 10 Donald Trumps in government,” said The Poke, a left-leaning British satirical website.

“They are the definition of out out touch dinosaurs,” the Huffington Post quoted Northern Ireland resident Gerald Brolly. British ITN Channel 4’s Jon Snow called the DUP “one of the most extreme political entities on the British Isles”.

Substitute “GOP” for “DUP” and “Donald Trump’s America” for “the British Isles” and the sentence would ring just as true.

The DUP especially resembles the GOP in rural, Southern and Midwestern Red States like Kentucky. where I’ve lived all of my 67 years.

The DUP is white, fundamentalist, Protestant, anti-abortion, anti-evolution and anti-immigrant. DUP members are pro-Brexit.

Trump invited Nigel Farage, head of the also Republican-like, right-wing populist UK Independence Party, to come over and campaign for him. “Brexit was great, but Trump becoming president of the USA is Brexit plus plus plus,” Farage gushed at a Trump inauguration party.

DUP members also deny global warming, support capital punishment for some crimes and are rabidly homophobic.

About the only place the DUP and the GOP differ is on the Catholic faith. The DUP is fanatically opposed to Irish Catholic nationalism and aims to keep Protestant-majority Northern Ireland, or Ulster, in the United Kingdom and out of the Catholic-majority Republic of Ireland (which has legalized same-sex marriage, as has the UK, except for Northern Ireland.)

While the GOP is, essentially, a de facto theocratic party, it isn’t anti-Catholic, unlike the Know-Nothings, a party popular in overwhelmingly Protestant and native-born Kentucky in the 1850s. The party was also virulently anti-immigrant, a trait much of the Trump GOP shares.

Today, more than a few leading Republicans are Catholic. Speaker Paul Ryan comes to mind. Yet the white conservative Catholic ←→ white Protestant fundamentalist alliance is an earthly marriage of convenience.

Visit rural, white fundamentalist churches on Sunday mornings in the Bluegrass State and elsewhere in the Bible Belt and you’re apt to hear sermonizing common in the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, the bedrock of DUP support: “Catholics and everybody else but us are going to hell.”

Other than the name “Presbyterian,” the Ulster church has nothing in common with the Presbyterian Church in the USA—now the Presbyterian Church (USA)—in which I grew up.

The DUP-GOP similarities have not gone unnoticed in Old Mother Britain and Erin. “The circumstances under which the DUP and Donald Trump assumed power are ostensibly different, but there are similarities in the way both capitalised on a wave of sentiment where supporters felt others were making gains at their expense,” wrote John Manley of The Irish News, published in Belfast, Northern Ireland’s capital. “The ideological parallels between the two are more obvious, however.”


Photo by Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916

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