Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Imagine you met someone from France who had never heard of Margaret Thatcher. Think how surreal it would be if someone from such a short distance away had missed one of the most polarising and consequential phenomena on your island in living memory. That’s what it was like on June 9 for people from the island of Ireland to discover that most of the UK knew next to nothing about the DUP.
Hastily prepared memes flew around social media. News outlets ran endless ‘Who are the DUP?’ articles. The Huffington Post described them as a ‘fairly unknown’ party. Whether you come from Northern Ireland or the Republic and regardless of your religion or your politics, you’ve heard of the DUP, and not because they’re socially conservative.
In recent weeks, much has rightly been made of the DUP’s climate denialism, their anti-choice stance, their opposition to marriage equality, and their rejection of cosmopolitan values. Corbyn supporters gleefully pointed to Tory hypocrisy. Having spent the election campaign lambasting Corbyn for allegedly sympathising with terrorists, the Tories opportunistically courted the support of a party whose membership once overlapped with several loyalist paramilitary groups.
Until recently, what made the DUP so infamous on the island of Ireland was little to do with social conservatism. The party’s passionate dedication to Britishness (albeit a form of Britishness more honored in Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands than anywhere in Great Britain), their defence of Ulster Protestantism or their celebration of Unionist culture and tradition are not what made their reputation either. Rather the DUP stands out for their historic and often dogmatic lack of compromise, including in negotiations with the British government.
It’s no coincidence that the DUP slogan ‘Ulster says no’ has been parodied so often. For the first thirty years, the DUP rarely felt compelled to offer constructive solutions. Even other unionists characterised the DUP as deeply negative. The party rejected many and varied attempts to resolve the violence in Northern Ireland.
They rejected proposals that involved sharing power with republicans. They protested any involvement of the government of the Republican of Ireland in Northern Ireland’s affairs. They campaigned against the Sunningdale Agreement, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and the Belfast Agreement (better known as the Good Friday Agreement).
By insisting on majority-rule and opposing power-sharing, the DUP guaranteed Northern Ireland’s Catholic minority would remain largely excluded from political life. The DUP carried the torch for an anachronistic form of loyalist fundamentalism that saw any accommodation of the Catholic population or the Republic of Ireland as a surrender to papism and a threat to the union. In time, their persistence (and arguably Ian Paisley’s personal magnetism) would drastically shift mainstream unionism, eventually unseating the Ulster Unionist Party as the largest party in Northern Ireland.
Ian Paisley established the DUP in 1971. He would go on to lead the party for the next 37 years, bringing them from the fringes to the mainstream. The DUP was originally a response to the civil rights movement, a campaign to end social, employment, education and housing discrimination against Northern Ireland’s Catholic population. Paisley characterised the civil rights movement as republicanism in disguise.
The DUP was the only major party in Northern Ireland to campaign against the Good Friday Agreement – the 1998 agreement that ushered in the past two decades of relative peace and prosperity. Following the conclusion of the Good Friday agreement, elections to Northern Ireland’s new Assembly were originally won by more moderate parties like the UUP and the SDLP.
When devolved government returned to Northern Ireland after the 2002-2007 suspension, the DUP came into power with Sinn Fein. This was remarkable progress – the thought that these two parties could share power would scarcely have been credible even a decade before.
The DUP have normalised if not moderated in recent years, since even before Ian Paisley stepped down as leader. The DUP, perhaps feeling more secure in recent days, have moved on and can no longer be fairly described as a party of obstruction. The time has indeed come to pay more attention to current affairs such as their antiquated social policies or their role in the Brexit referendum than to their anti-peace past. But much of the UK only paid attention to the DUP for the first time on June 9, in much the same way that so little was said or considered about the consequences of a leave vote for Northern Ireland ahead of the Brexit referendum.
Opinions are mixed on the impact of Brexit or the Tory-DUP partnership on the Northern Ireland peace process. Northern Ireland’s institutions are not in good shape. They came close to collapse in late 2015 and veered further into troubled waters in 2017. The need for a solution to the issue of Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic after the UK leaves the EU will ensure the North remains high on the UK’s agenda for some time. This attention is evidently badly needed. It remains to be seen if Mrs May is making a mistake by negotiating this agenda with the DUP at her side.
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
’We believe in you. We are with you. We will never forget.’ Grenfell solidarity sweeps East London in mass banner drops from housing estates
Michael Calderbank profiles Jeremy Corbyn's new supporters in parliament
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya
North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero
The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava
France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati
This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help
PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank
Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media
I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to
We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS
Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank
Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland
Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones
The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya
The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.
An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now
The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee
Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell
Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths