The Shame Game – who are the DUP?
The DUP hold a balance of power in the UK parliament. Holy moly. Anyone versed in NI politics might be pretty terrified right now, but I’d like to offer a more positive take… the world is now paying attention to them, so let’s show the world what they get up to when they think no one’s watching. They’ll regret the spotlight pretty quickly. I compiled a “thread of shame” on my twitter that’s been pretty popular, so I wanted to compile it in a bit more orderly fashion, with some more links. A lot of the media’s “who are the DUP” posts seem to be “oh they don’t like equal marriage or abortion”, but there’s a LOT more to pay attention to. I’m usually really against attack-based campaigns, but I genuinely want people in the rest of the UK to understand what the DUP are actually like. I’ve included at least one media source for each scandal, but most of them have plenty of stories – I recommend googling to find a lot of different perspectives. The DUP are quick to cry libel, so I’ve made sure everything I’ve included here is 100% substantiable.
Let's do a DUP thread of shame, actually. Feel free to give me some more things to include. Here's what the DUP get up to:
— Georgia Grainger (@green_grainger) June 9, 2017
First of all, I recommend reading Adam Ramsay’s piece on the DUP’s background and where they’ve come from, it’s pretty well-informed and helps contextualise a lot of what I’m listing here.
Secondly, I want to say that I’m not bringing family members or personal issues into this other than where they actually affect political matters – eg. not declared as interests, or reflect hypocritical opinions. Family members’ previous actions aren’t really a reflection of politicians’ current beliefs so I’m just going by what DUP politicians themselves have done, otherwise I’d be here for years.
2010-12 ~ Red Sky & Housing Executive
Then-First Minister Peter Robinson and other key figures in the DUP pushed very hard for the Housing Executive (social housing providers in NI) to protect a housing firm, Red Sky, which had significant financial irregularities and were carrying out substandard building. It’s a pretty dense scandal to get to grips with, but basically it was ruled that people had acted inappropriately and lots of dodgy stuff went on. It even has a wikipedia page. The Detail also did some pretty amazing investigating, which you can read.
2014-16 ~ Nama
The DUP were accused of being aware of, and beneficiaries of, an illegal property sale. It’s a pretty complicated issue, but the BBC did a massive investigation into it and do their best to explain it. There was also a Spotlight special on the investigation, but it’s not available on iPlayer anymore, hopefully they’ll re-run it. Allegations included the then-First Minister, Peter Robinson, personally benefitting. New DUP MP Emma Pengelly’s husband was a senior civil servant in the Department of Finance during all this, but she denied it’s a conflict of interest.
2012-17 ~ RHI/Cash for Ash
The DUP, especially First Minister Arlene Foster, were deeply involved in a mismanaged renewable energy scheme which is set to cost the NI public £400 million and the UK Treasury £600 million. Arlene Foster has refused to step aside to allow an investigation into her involvement in the scheme, resulting in the Assembly collapsing and there being no devolved authority in Northern Ireland since March. The BBC have a timeline.
2016-17 ~ Brexit Finances
During the European referendum campaign, the DUP funded advertisements which were not run in Northern Ireland – a weird move for a party that only stands in Northern Ireland. A possible, and likely, explanation of is that Northern Ireland has different political donation laws, protecting the secrecy of donors’ identities, and therefore allowing donations from “less savoury” people than would be tolerated by Tory or Ukip voters when their donations were published. There’s been some digging done, linking some of the finances to Saudi money and gun running. Basically the DUP allowed themselves to be used as a laundering service to get unpleasant funding for Brexit.
Individual MPs and Other Key Figures
Previous First Minister and DUP Leader Peter Robinson
In 1986, Peter Robinson joined other paramilitary loyalists in staging an invasion of the Republic of Ireland. He was also part of forming the Ulster Resistance, a loyalist paramilitary organisation who collaborated with the UDA and UVF. Robinson defended Pastor McConnell when he said that Muslims were “satanic” and “heathen”, but helpfully added that he would “trust them to go to the shops” for him. Peter and Iris Robinson both tried to claim separate expenses for several of their joint parliamentary expenses, essentially doubling many of the expenses.
Peter Robinson’s wife, and also an MP and MLA in her own right, Iris Robinson claimed that gay people were “more vile than child abusers”. Additionally, she supported reparative therapy to “cure” gay people, including one who therapist was investigated for malpractice but cleared. In 2010, the BBC found out that she had an affair with a 19-year-old man in 2008 (she was 58 at the time), and had gained loans to cover him starting a restaurant. She did not declare her financial interest. The subsequent scandal resulted in her expulsion from the DUP and her resigning her seats; her husband remained First Minister.
First Minister Arlene Foster
Foster failed to reveal that her husband owned 54 acres of land, part of a large parcel of land granted a license for fracking by her department. She has since become a supporter of fracking, criticising the Co-op’s anti-fracking documentary. Arlene Foster also personally encouraged banks to back the aforementioned RHI scheme, in an unusual move. In early 2017, Foster suggested Irish language speakers were crocodiles, prompting protesters to dress as crocodiles during campaigns for an Irish Language Act. During the General Election campaign, Foster visited a UDA boss just days after a loyalist murder in Bangor.
Sammy Wilson MP
Thinks that breastfeeding is motivated by “voyeurism” and not a desire to feed babies. Thinks that climate change is a con (despite previously being Minister for Environment in the NI Assembly), which he states on his own website. He also pretty consistently attacks the media for “bias” when they investigate DUP scandals. He wrote a cracking post against his own constituents during protests against an oil drill in his constituency, which I think is still on the DUP website but it’s down at the minute, the Irish News have a cropped version though. There was also a dispute over whether or not he verbally agreed with someone else saying “get the ethnics out”. In 1994, Sammy Wilson backed a UDA document that included calls for ethnic cleansing to make Northern Ireland entirely Protestant; the document said that Catholics left in Northern Ireland would be “expelled, nullified, or interned” – Wilson called some of the document “a very valuable return to reality” [NOTE: this is the only source on this page not available entirely online, it is fully covered in the book Crimes of Loyalty: A History of the UDA and the ethnic cleansing aspect is mentioned in Ulster University’s timeline of the Troubles, in the 16th January 1994 entry, it’s also covered on Wilson’s wikipedia page]. Wilson called Assembly members “Jihadists” and tweeted “Je suis Sammy” in 2015, and subsequently refused to apologise.
Emma Pengelly MP
Pengelly’s husband is a civil servant, and aside from his proximity to the Nama scandal, he used his role as permanent secretary of the Department of Health to warn health trust staff not to share their political opinions on social media. The UDA endorsed Pengelly’s campaign in South Belfast.
Gregory Campbell MP
Gregory Campbell raised his concern with “spirit boards” such as ouija boards in 2015, when he called for their sales to be regulated. Campbell was double-jobbing as an MP and MLA when he was barred from speaking in the Assembly for mocking Irish language speakers, by saying “curry my yoghurt, can coca coalyer” (imitating the Irish for “thank you, speaker”, “go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle“). For what it’s worth, he also said the DUP will not be an “NI branch of the Conservatives”.
Gavin Robinson MP
No relation to Peter and Iris Robinson, Gavin Robinson quickly gained notoriety due to the tone of his acceptance speech when he was first elected in 2015. Not necessarily a negative, but interestingly enough, Corbyn and Robinson were both on the panel of West Belfast Talks Back in 2015, and you can listen to the audio; I like the bit where Robinson says that if Equal Marriage won a majority in the Assembly they would have to respect that, and then the DUP blocked the majority with a petition of concern less than 6 months later. Awkward.
Ian Paisley Jr. MP
In 1997, Ian Paisley Jr. “moo-ed” while members of the Women’s Coalition Party were speaking, to interrupt their speeches. Paisley was involved in a minor scandal when he lobbied on behalf of property developers in 2007. He also had the highest expenses claim of any MP in 2013 – £232,000, over 1% of the total amount claimed by all 650 MPs. He also made some very dodgy comments around the start of the Saville child abuse cases being investigated.
David Simpson MP
In election leaflets this year, David Simpson claimed he had visited military troops in Afghanistan when he did not.
Edwin Poots MLA
As Culture Minister in 2007, Poots participated in an interview saying he believed the earth was created in 4,000 BC. He was then appointed Health Minister, and in 2013 he challenged gay adoption in the Supreme Court, using taxpayers’ money.
Willie McCrea (previous MP and MLA)
Willie McCrea was a convicted member of a loyalist paramilitary group, and was criticised for sharing a platform with senior Loyalist, Billy Wright, who is thought to have been involved in over twenty sectarian killings; at the time of sharing the platform in 1996, McCrea was an MP. Billy Wright was also supported by other DUP members. In 1986, McCrea proposed “Libya-style” airstrikes on Irish towns. McCrea also declared “as long as I live I will have a mission, which is to teach these women to stand behind the loyal men of Ulster”.
Going ‘way back when’, the DUP spearheaded the “Save Ulster from Sodomy” campaign, which campaigned against the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland, which eventually happened in 1981 through a court case.
The DUP’s support of Asher’s Bakery inspired the “Conscience Clause”, which they intended to legislate to allow discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people for religious reasons.
Jim Wells MLA resigned in 2015, shortly after two incidents including him allegedly saying that children brought up by gay parents were more likely to be abused, and insulting a gay constituent while canvassing.
There’s a great timeline of further LGBT-related actions by the DUP here.
The DUP supported claims that the new Giant’s Causeway tourist centre was against creationist values (for saying the Causeway was created millions of years ago, when of course the Earth is only 6,000 years old).
DUP MLA, Mervyn Storey, threatened the Ulster Museum with legal action due to their lack of a creationist viewpoint challenging their evolution exhibition; the DUP Culture Minister, Nelson McCauseland, then also requested the museum to include anti-evolutionist exhibits, as it was a “human rights issue”.
A DUP member garnered international press in 2011 by telling Rihanna to ‘cover up’ when she filmed a music video in his fields. (Who knew Rihanna and Theresa May had something in common…?)
Prior to the widespread, disruptive “Flag Protests” in 2012, the DUP had distributed 400,000 leaflets blaming the Alliance Party for the vote to remove the flag from City Hall and, according to some, inciting the following violence.
DUP MLA Paul Girvan defends burning Irish flags on bonfires in a radio interview.
The DUP cancelled Oktoberfest Banbridge in 2013, by denying licensing to the event due to the sale of alcohol.
Following contention about recent paramilitary activity in 2015, the DUP ministers resigned and renominated for all their roles repeatedly, to hold the Northern Ireland Assembly in ‘limbo’ – preventing any ministerial decisions being made, but also preventing an election or other action.
It came to light that the DUP had been pre-signing Petitions of Concern (essentially vetos), going so far as to tippex out names of previous MLAs. This is very unconventional, as the PoCs are meant to be issue-related and not just signed en-masse for the leader to whip out whenever they want.
Jim Wells was the subject of two complaints regarding sexism in the Assembly, in a matter of days during February 2016.
Following the Euro 2016, DUP councillors refused to congratulate the Northern Irish team because the Irish team were also included in the letter and the English team weren’t.
I’ve compiled this and will be updating this for free, which I am happy to do, but if this has helped you, particularly professionally (eg. if you are a journalist or political commentator), I have a paypal link so you could send me a few quid to cover my unpaid work. I’d really appreciate it!
I’ll edit this post to include any other things I remember or come across, and to clarify anything or correct things I’ve got wrong, so please feel free to let me know if anything is incorrect or if there’s anything else I could include. You can tweet me, or comment on this post. Please share with anyone who might not know just quite what the Tories are getting themselves in for.
Thanks for reading!