Politics Made Simple Part 8: What are the Biggest Issues People will be Voting for in the 5th of May Northern Ireland Assembly Election?

Northern Ireland has a habit of voting for Parties that stand for Green and Orange issues, which has worked for every Party, especially the DUP and Sinn Féin. There’s been signs that might be changing, however, as both Parties lost votes after the 2019 General Election, but still, there’s signs that this might still be the way the public will vote.

You could also say that the Northern Ireland Protocol is also getting mixed into orange politics, as one Unionist Party say they’re interested in dealing with the Protocol through negotiations, while the others think it’s better to collapse the government to sort it.

But what are the other big issues that people will be voting for in the Northern Ireland Assembly Election? In this blog, I’m going to lie out the big issues people will be voting for tomorrow.

1: The Northern Ireland Protocol

Although it may prove not to be the most important issue, the NI Protocol is still a big issue, especially in the Unionist / Loyalist community.

For anyone who doesn’t know what it is, the Protocol is part of the Brexit deal that has been signed by Westminster, which has caused a lot of division since it was negotiated and signed into law in 2020.

This means that those who see themselves as Unionist / Loyalist see themselves being separated from their own country — though Northern Ireland is still part of the UK — which they expect there would be uproar over if the same border was put down the island of Ireland.

2: Cost of Living Crisis

2022 has seen the cost of living go up in the UK, with petrol prices, the cost of heating, the cost of food and more going up.

With no one being in power in Stormont, there is no one making the decisions required to lead people through the difficult times where they can’t afford the basic needs, which those who aren’t rich will definitely feel.

3: Fixes for the Health Service

Like every other country in the world, Northern Ireland is on its way out of a global pandemic.

Every country is facing the same problems in how they can return to a new form of “normal”, but the difference is that the NHS has been struggling in the UK for years, with the Northern Ireland Health Service being especially underfunded.

Although Robin Swann has been relevantly successful as Health Minister throughout the pandemic, cracks have been noticeable since the beginning of the year.

There’s been problems in patients and their families being able to get through to emergency services over the phone, as well as with availability of ambulances, a shortage of beds, and more.

As well as this, there’s also been a move to take a house’s ownership out of an elderly person’s mortgage when they move into a nursing home, although this has been slightly more controversial.

4: Climate Change

The world is in a climate emergency, which governments are in a hurry to get sorted.

Yes; there are problems with various issues to do with Climate Change, from electric cars being expensive for a lot of people, to making sure Climate Change is accessible for disabled people, and making sure that no one is left behind in the discussions.

5. Employment in a Post-Pandemic World

The Coronavirus Pandemic meant non emergency sectors starting to work from home, which some sectors have now decided to keep in place, while others plan to return to working as they normally would.

However, the pandemic also saw a rise of people who were made redundant, who have remained unemployed, and also stopped the employment of young people who wanted to get started in the industry of their choice, especially in the disability community.

6: Making Northern Ireland More Accessible

The Disability Discrimination Act has been in place for over 25 years, but despite how much the lives of disabled people have got mainly better since the 1990s, they still aren’t completely without discrimination.

While legislation was passed to get disabled changing places in all public buildings, there are still a number of places that don’t have them, noticeably, the Grand Opera House in Belfast.

But it isn’t even just changing places facilities that would make Northern Ireland more accessible.

There has to be a big discussion around how cars can become accessible — especially giving how we are talking about how the Climate Debate can become more accessible for disabled people and there are signs that — if an electric car is bought by someone in the disabled community — it would also have to have a ‘charges while driving’ feature.

I’d also be interested in having a debate on whether or not every day technology should be added into the Disability Discrimination Act, so no technology company can tell a disabled child that they aren’t allowed to use the same technology as their siblings and their friends.

7: The Single-Sex Toilets, Sports and Communities Debate

Trans people of course have the right to use the toilet, as they do when it comes to them feeling like they want to join sports teams, and everything else they want to be part of.

But likewise, women have the right to have female only spaces, sports teams and groups that they get involved with, as do men.

As this topic is an ongoing one, it will obviously be a part of what might win or loose Parties the vote, with some even deciding to vote for the Party who decides that maybe having a mixed bathroom and a mixed team or group is the best way to move forward, without changing as well the ones which stay single sex.

Politics Made Simple (The Northern Ireland Assembly Election) Part 7: What is the Difference Between Loyalism, Unionism, Republicanism and Nationalism

It has surprised me how well this blog has been taken since I started this series, explaining each of the Northern Ireland political parties in a way that is simple to understand for the election next week, and I do look forward to seeing what all I can continue bringing to it in the weeks and months that come.

There’s been a couple of terms I’ve used to describe each party as well, however, and in this blog, I’m going to go through each of the belief sets that have been included in the title of the blog, with included charts on which parties belong to which set.

PS; some descriptions that have been given to these beliefs could belong to both of the groups, but the areas on which they disagree with each other could also be disagreed on by the people who identify themselves as each term.

What is Loyalism?

Loyalism is a branch of Unionism which — as the name suggests — is loyal to the idea of Northern Ireland remaining part of the UK.

While every Unionist party does have the belief in their name, it is questionable in the modern day which ones can be described as Loyalists, and which can be seen as Unionists, because there are major differences between the two.

While they do agree on the end goal of keeping Northern Ireland in the UK, Loyalists tend to believe that they are happy to go to any extent to make sure this happens, even to the extent of turning to paramilitaries.

On the other issues that exist and which have been covered in my previous posts, there are some Loyalists who would back some of those political issues, and others who would disagree, so the extent to which they are willing to fight for the every day issues can differ.

The Parties running in this election that belong to the Loyalist stance are the TUV, PUP and the DUP, but they don’t support the paramilitaries, though some of their supporters do.

What is Unionism?

Unionism is the name given to the overall belief that Northern Ireland should remain in the UK, but what differentiates a large percentage of this group from Loyalists is that they are committed to their main belief remaining in a way that is peaceful, and who see The Good Friday Agreement as the best way forward for achieving this.

As of May 2022, the only Unionist Party who you could say are solely aligning themselves to this perspective are the Ulster Unionist Party, who have also called for tempers to be calmed down, though the DUP would also count themselves as Unionists (hence, another area where the Party seem to be facing problems).

What is Republicanism?

Republicanism is the name given to the belief that Northern Ireland should be reunited with the Republic of Ireland, but who’s followers have historically been happy to force people into it — and who therefore are happy to go to any extent to achieve it.

However, they can still have fairly liberal views towards

As of May 2022, the only Party which can be described as Republican is Sinn Féin.

What is Nationalism?

Similar to Republicanism, Nationalists agree that they want to see all of Ireland reunified under one political system, preferably outside of the UK.

However, unlike Republicans, they want to see this happen through peaceful negotiations in a way that works for everyone, and have said they’d be interested in adopting what some describe as ‘British Policies’ into a ‘New Ireland’, whether that means having a version of the NHS in a United Ireland, whether that would mean part of the New Ireland becoming part of The Commonwealth, whether we continue having a free education system, the existence of Stormont, etc.

While the two political parties who belong to this belief set do disagree with each other in ways, the two who you would describe as Nationalist are the SDLP and People Before Profit.

What Do People Mean By Neither?

But even at this point, there are people who don’t believe in any of the four belief sets, and that’s where the parties who are supported by those who describe themselves as neither come in.

The Parties who brand themselves as being Neither are Alliance, the Green Party of Northern Ireland, and the NI Independents — though the last has candidates that campaign as not belonging to any party.

The problems that these Parties generally have is that when Northern Ireland is eventually asked the question of whether or not it want to to stay in the UK, they run the risk of upsetting one community overall, even if they only publicise how they voted after a result is announced.

Only one of these parties wouldn’t run this risk.

I hope all of these terms have been described in a way that is easy to understand, and I will see you for one last blog on the Eve of Election Day.

Politics Made Simple Part 6 (The Northern Ireland Assembly Election): Who Are The Other Political Parties?

Welcome back to Part 6 of my Politics Made Simple series, where I’m covering everything you need to know about the Northern Ireland Political Parties in a way that is simple to understand.

In today’s blog, I’m going to go through all the other political parties standing in this year’s election (these are the parties who don’t normally get a lot of the vote, but may or may not achieve more in this election, so they can be seen as being jealous of their big brothers’ — DUP, UUP, Sinn Fein and the SDLP’s success, and really want the spotlight to be given to them).

Traditional Unionist Voice (The TUV)

The TUV was formed in December 2007, and are a Loyalist Party, which was founded by their current leader, Jim Allister.

They are opposed to the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement — which they view as a betrayal by the British government of the Unionist cause, in regards that it lets those who it calls “unrepentant terrorists at the heart of government”.

Through this, they have until recently been opposed to the DUP — who they hold accountable for “sacrificing their principles” and agreeing to go into power sharing with Sinn Féin — and also oppose the UUP — who they basically view as being to blame for all the rubbish we’ve had since 1998.

Turning to their opinions on other issues (which have been largely seen through controversy), they are opposed to the Irish Language Act, which they described in 2009 on their website as “Leprechaun Language”, but they did later remove it.

They fundamentally placed themselves in opposition to the Gay Marriage / Abortion Reform, and called for the DUP to force the government to back down on gay marriage and abortion reforms in July 2019.

Lastly, in August 2016 Referendum, Jim Allister counted Brexit as the best case scenario for Northern Ireland.

As of April 2022, the TUV now counts the Brexit Deal that was signed as a betrayal of the Act of Union, and their main political view — if their manifesto is anything to go by — is scrapping the Northern Ireland Protocol. (They wouldn’t go into the Assembly if this one issue wasn’t scrapped).

So to summarise what the TUV is:

  • They are one of the newest Unionist Parties which was founded in 2007, by a group of former DUP members, who rejected the DUP going into government with Sinn Féin.
  • They are opposed to the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement, based on some of the points it currently stands for.
  • They are against the Irish Language Act.
  • They were against Gay Marriage and Abortion Reform in Northern Ireland before the British government passed both issues.
  • They supported Brexit — which they counted as the best case scenario for Northern Ireland — but wanted a different deal than what has been delivered.
  • They are fundamentally opposed to the Northern Ireland Protocol, and support not returning to the Executive until the issue is scrapped.

What is the PUP?

The Progressive Unionist Party — or as they are known, ‘the PUP’ — are a political party that was founded in 1979 to represent working class loyalists, and who’s sole commitment is strengthening Northern Ireland’s political marriage with Great Britain in the UK. Their original founding leader was the late David Ervine, who demanded a place at the negotiating table during the Peace Process. To many people’s surprise he was a great politician who won respect across the political divide. His untimely death left everyone stunned, although his sister-in-law, Linda has come to prominence recently as an advocate for Irish Language schools in the heart of Loyalism. Under Ervine the PUP were a real threat to the DUP in the Loyalist heartlands and were taking votes from them.

Billy Hutchinson is the current leader of the PUPs.

They believe in doing this through a cordial Union made up of diverse people from multiple cultures and faiths, as a way of achieving social and political harmony.

Other issues the PUP cares about are on promoting citizenship as part of the United Kingdom, which they believe should draw from a range of cultures and traditions.

They support helping Working Class families — which in fairness to them, other Parties support as well — but are subscribed to the political ideology laid out by them Ulster Covenant in 1912.

As well as this, they also support implementing progressive policies and initiatives that promote supporting full and equal citizenship, entitlements and responsibilities, that will develop the social and economic well being of citizens and religious / political freedoms.

But what positions has the party recently taken regarding political issues?

In recent months between late 2021 – early 2022, the PUP has faced many of the same problems as other Unionist Parties have faced.

In November 2021, the former PUP councillor, John Kyle — who has since jumped over to the UUP — said that there could be advantages to the NI Protocol (a few days after his party had previously said there was no bases for Unionists continuing to back the Good Friday Agreement).

As of April 2022, they have been among four political parties attending rallies to collapse the Northern Ireland Protocol, and have been critical of Doug Beattie — the UUP’s leader — for not attending.

It can therefore be believed that they are in support of keeping the Executive down until the Protocol is abandoned.

Their opinions on the other political issues mentioned in this blog have historically differed as well.

So to Summarise what the PUP is:

  • They are a Unionist Party who were founded in 1979, and who describe themselves as Working Class.
  • They are committed fundamentally to Northern Ireland remaining part of the UK, and believe the Union should be made up of a mix of people from different cultures and faiths.
  • They support progressive politics, and subscribe to the 1912 Ulster Convent.
  • They caused controversy recently when one of their councillors, John Kyle, left to join the UUP, after making claims that there are advantages to the NI Protocol, a couple of days after they said there was no more need for Unionists to back the Good Friday Agreement.
  • They are happy for Unionists to walk away from the Good Friday Agreement, if it means that the NI Protocol will no longer exist.

What is the Green Party of Northern Ireland?

The Green Party of Northern Ireland was founded in the 1980s, and is currently led by Clare Bailey.

Like many Green Parties around the world, the Green Party of NI wants to see movement on Climate Change legislation.

They support LGBT+, are pro Abortion in certain circumstances, and also support an Irish Language Act.

While some of their members have sympathised with the idea of a United Ireland in the past, they don’t believe it is the right time to consider a Border Poll.

But they are in support of creating fair employment, a fair education system and a fair health system.

What is People Before Profit?

People Before Profit is a socialist party founded in October 2005, and which has started building momentum in Northern Ireland throughout the last couple of years. And while they would generally like to see all of Ireland under one political system, they would like it to come about in a way that generally works for everyone.

Until recently the best known member of the PBP was Eamonn McCann, a well known Marxist. Although he his not standing for election in May.

But turning towards some of their other policies, they would like to see an agriculture policy that promotes the establishment of small local processors, and of cooperative farm ownership, among others.

When it comes to Brexit and the current circumstances that surrounds it, People Before Profit has always rejected what it sees as the DUP’s attempt to use the Protocol for sectarian electioneering, and are against any attempts to recreate a hard border on the island of Ireland. They’re against any moves to weaken economic links between Northern and Southern Ireland, and also oppose the neoliberalism and imperialism that they see coming from London and Brussels.

So to summarise what People Before Profit is:

  • They are a socialist party founded in 2005, and which exists in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
  • While they generally support the idea of the entirety of Ireland being under one political system, they want it to come about in a way that works for everyone.
  • They support agriculture policies that promote the establishment of small local processors, of cooperative farm ownership, and are willing to help farmers who are struggling in the aftermath of Brexit.
  • They reject the DUP’s attempts to use the Protocol for sectarian electioneering purposes, and are also against any hard border returning to the island of Ireland, and any attempts to weaken the economic links before North and South.
  • They also oppose the neoliberalism and imperialism they see coming from London and Brussels, as well as the creation of a European Army.

What are the Northern Ireland Independents?

But even with the number of parties we do have a choice over, some people choose not to identify with any of them.

And that’s when the Northern Ireland Independents come in.

An Independent can have any belief set they want, but what they all have in common is that they don’t belong to any of the parties.

But unlike other Independent candidates from other countries around the world, we have had quite a number of Independent candidates who have been very successful and taken on impressive roles within the government, so they can still be influential. With our system of Proportional Representation, a popular local candidate stands a good chance of election. Unlike the first past the post system for the Westminster elections.

Politics Made Simple Episode 5: What Is The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland?

The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland is the 5th biggest party in the Northern Ireland Executive, and have gained a large percentage of votes in the other elections held over recent years. Having been founded in April 1970 by people who had previously been part of the New Ulster Movement, they were set up as a group to promote moderate and non-sectarian policies, which they do technically still stand by today — although it has been debated in recent years that they’ve started backing more Nationalist and Republican issues over Unionist and Loyalist ones.

So basically, they want to make everyone happy.

This has convinced people who would describe themselves as Small Unionists, Small Nationalists and Neither into giving them their vote in recent years — but this might change given that one Unionist party has finally recovered from their 17 year concussion and fancies stealing back some of their lost voters.

As of April 2022, the Alliance Party is led by Naomi Long — the ‘Ginga Ninja’. But what are their main policies, and what would you be voting for if you vote for them on the 5th of May? In this blog, I am going to get into all their policies, so you know what to do on the day of the election.

The Alliance party of today is meant to be neutral on whether we stay part of the UK or if there should be Irish Reunification, although this has become a problem for them since calls for a United Ireland have been publicised more since the 2016 Brexit Referendum.

They supported Remain in the 2016 Referendum, but went along with Sinn Féin, the SDLP and other Remain supporting parties after in campaigning for a Second Referendum — instead of accepting the result — and view the Northern Ireland Protocol as the best case scenario, although they are up to changing some of the problems with it through negotiations, instead of pulling the entire Executive down.

They haven’t publicised which side they would back if there was a Border Poll held tomorrow, or if they would even pick a side until after a result was given — hence, they would rather stay on the fence.

But looking now at the issues that they actually aren’t afraid to talk about, the Alliance Party believes in delivering better Public Services, that will help everyone who uses them, and that won’t depend on green and orange politics.

They believe in a green economy that is fair for all, are in support of progressive climate legislation — which they believe will only be secured by the creation of high-paid, high-quality green new jobs — and also support investment into agriculture and an ambitious anti-poverty agenda, but they haven’t said publicly yet what they would take money away from, although they have admitted they will need a responsible approach to these plans, that will involve recognising limited revenue-raising powers.

True to the stepping stones of the party, they champion a shared future for society, where everyone in the country comes together, where society is peaceful, and where politics is defined by socioeconomic issues.

Lastly, they also respect the rights for all citizens regardless of race, religion, sex, gender, age, or place of origin — although I haven’t seen anything where they’ve outlined their views on disabled issues — and are Pro-Abortion in certain circumstances.

They joined with other parties when calling for Michelle O’Neill to resign over breaching Covid guidance to attend the Bobby Storey funeral, but caused controversy when their leader (who was Justice Minister at the time) saw no vationel to probe any further investigations, and also after some of their party councillors’ tweets were deemed to be offensive as well.

So to summarise what the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland is:

  • They are a Liberal Party, founded in 1970 out of the New Ulster Movement, and which has been led since 2016 by Naomi Long.
  • They were against Brexit, and backed calls for a Second Referendum instead of accepting the result.
  • They are pro LGBT+, Pro Abortion in certain circumstances and Pro Irish Language Act
  • They support better action for Climate Change
  • They believe Public Services should be easily accessible by everyone
  • They caused controversy after the Justice Department saw no more vationel to probe any other investigations into the Bobby Storey funeral which Sinn Féin breached Covid Guidance in by attending, and when some of their councillors’ tweets proved offensive as well.

Sources

History of the Alliance Party: https://www.allianceparty.org/our_history

Our Visions: https://www.allianceparty.org/our_vision

Naomi Long Officially Becomes Leader of The Alliance Party: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-37782400

16. Reactions to WWDC22: Is iOS16 Accessible Enough and What Are My Thoughts About Apple’s M2 Macs? The Phoebs Lyle Podcast

Apple's Worldwide Developers' Conference – often referred to as WWDC – took place from 6th until the 10th of June 2022, and which featured sneak peaks of iOS 16, as well as the first M2 Macs.But what are my thoughts, and is the next version of iOS the most accessible? And are the new M2 Macs really worth upgrading?TO FOLLOWMy Technology Reviews Website: https://technologyreviews.co.ukMy Journalism / Film Production Website: https://phoebelyle.comMy Personal Twitter: https://twitter.com/PhoebslyleMy Personal Instagram: https://Instagram.com/therealphoebslyle/The PL Tech Reviews YouTube Channel: https://youtube.com/channel/UCN3KXB2-z8iisuS1PspjwIAThe Phoebs Lyle Journalism YouTube Channel: https://youtube.com/channel/UCbPQAzDKcmFLwg_m9BAlwgASupport this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-phoebs-lyle-podcast1645/donations
  1. 16. Reactions to WWDC22: Is iOS16 Accessible Enough and What Are My Thoughts About Apple’s M2 Macs?
  2. 15. Should E-Games Be Considered as an Equivalent for Disabled Sport?
  3. 14. Blue Badges Removed as Acceptable Voting ID / Anlan Neck Massager Review
  4. 13. Politics Made Simple Part 8: What are the Top Issues People Will Be Voting for in Northern Ireland’s #AE22?
  5. 12: What is the Difference Between Loyalism, Unionism, Republicanism, Nationalism and Neither?

Politics Made Simple Episode 4 (The Northern Ireland Assembly Election): What Is The UUP?

The Ulster Unionist Party (better known to all the normal folk as the UUP) is the second largest Unionist party in Northern Ireland — though you could say they are plotting to become the biggest again. Evolving from the Ulster Unionist Council which was founded in 1905, they were the biggest Unionist Party from the creation of Northern Ireland in 1921 until direct rule was called for in 1972, although they stayed important enough from then up until 2005, when it lost the title of biggest party to their now big brother, the DUP, and has been wondering how to grab the spotlight back ever since.

In recent years, the UUP has probably been best known for going from leader, to another leader, to another leader — making them the Katie Price or Angelina Jolie of Northern Ireland political parties — who at times, also decided to try and copy what their big brother was doing.

But after witnessing their big brother face a… ‘car crash’ in 2021, they dashed towards another chance to pick another leader, and this time picked who they hope is going to be their saviour: the former Army Captain, Doug Beattie (or as he became when a storm blew down part of his constituency sign, ‘Dougamorous’).

In the last year, they’ve changed a lot of their views from what was normally its historical stance, which they hope will go well with the voters.

So what are their beliefs, and what is it that makes them different from the DUP? In this blog, I’m going to outline everything there is to know about the UUP’s beliefs, so you can make the right decision come May the 5th.

So as mentioned, the UUP is the second biggest Unionist Party, so they are convinced that Northern Ireland is fundamentally better off inside the United Kingdom.

They were one of the main political parties who agreed the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement — which they compromised with their ex-partner, the SDLP — and are fully committed to it as a way of lasting peace.

During the 2016 Brexit Referendum, they supported Remain, but after the result was delivered said they were Democrats and accepted the result, while most other Remain Parties supported calls for a second referendum.

The party of the Health Minister, Robin Swann, they have a vision to restore the NHS to the potential where it can support the population to live as healthy people.

They support Integrated Education — where all children should be educated together regardless of religion.

Some other issues they’re committed to is to find a solution for Climate Change. They are also in support of having a thriving economy.

While they are against the Northern Ireland Protocol, they believe it can change more through negotiations instead of collapsing the house, which every other Unionist Party opposes.

So to summarise what the UUP is:

  • They are a Party which has derives from the Ulster Unionist Council, which was founded in the early 20th Century.
  • They are Unionist, so they believe Northern Ireland is better off inside the UK, but are against violence to help secure the Union.
  • They supported Remain in the 2016 Referendum, but decided to accept the result after the outcome was announced.
  • They historically counted LGBT+ issues as a matter of conscience, but are now in support of banning conversion therapy in Northern Ireland, ensuring information can be accessed by the transgender community and those questioning, and implementing zero intolerance approaches to hate crimes such groups might face.
  • They support the introduction of Changing Places Toilet facilities, and are also in support of setting up a £5million Accessibility fund to help improve accessibility for disabled people.
  • Their leader has faced criticism recently over offensive tweets he sent out between 2011-2014, although he has apologised now.

Sources

Ulster Unionist Party (Political Party, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom): https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ulster-Unionist-Party

I Will Not Be Intimidated vows UUP Leader, Doug Beattie, after ’Cowardly Attack’: https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/crime/i-will-not-be-intimidated-vows-uup-leader-doug-beattie-after-cowardly-attack-3629437

Ulster Unionist Party Policy Papers: https://www.uup.org/policy_papers

UUP Manifesto(s): https://www.uup.org/manifestos, https://assets.nationbuilder.com/uup/pages/40/attachments/original/1649258439/UUP_Manifesto_2022-_web.pdf?1649258439

Politics Made Simple part 3 (The Northern Ireland Assembly Election): What Is The SDLP?

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (or as they will be referred to in this opening paragraph, “The Simply and Desperately trying to Live Party”) are currently the third biggest party in the NI Executive, although that could all change by May the 5th. They were founded in the 1970s, and they were one of the two main parties in 1998 when the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement (whatever you want to call it), was signed (you know that thing which everyone born that year in Northern Ireland is only remembered for). Although the agreement has some good parts, it also had some bad parts, that might have proven to have been the cause of the car crash elections that have taken place since 2005/07 onwards, between the SDLP and their once marriage partner (yes, I mean the UUP).

But what are their main political beliefs, and what is it that differentiates between them and the second biggest party, Sinn Fein? In this episode, I’m going to be going through all their beliefs, so you know what you’ll be voting for on the 5th of May.

So as mentioned, the SDLP was founded as a nonsectarian political movement in the 1970s, and its first leader was Gerry Fitt, though it is John Hume who has been known as one of its more recognisable leaders, thanks to his greatest political achievement which was the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which he also got a Nobel Peace Prize for. Having joined the Northern Ireland civil rights movement in the late ’60s, Hume saw nationalism as a declining force in the new Europe, and thought Northern Ireland needed extended self-government, with powers reasonably divided between the population groups.

Though not one of the largest parties, the SDLP of today is led by Colum Eastwood, and as were the stepping stones of the party in its early days, their sole political aim is a United Ireland, though they want to achieve it by peaceful means.

They supported the UK adopting the euro during the Single Currency debate, and also supported Remain in the 2016 Brexit Referendum.

Some of their other stances on issues are that they support legislation involving the Irish Language Act, they support abortion in certain circumstances, and they also support Gay Marriage.

But they caused controversy last year when a bill dodged all mentions of girls and women, and pointed instead at “persons who have periods”.

They are supportive of the NHS, and are believed to have a plan for what they would like to keep in a United Ireland.

So to summarise what the SDLP is:

  • They are an Irish Nationalist party, who’s sole political aim is a United Ireland, but in a way that is brought around simply.
  • They are Pro-EU, Pro-Irish Language, Pro LGBT+ and Pro abortion in certain circumstances
  • They are Pro NHS
  • They were in support of the UK adopting the Euro
  • They have caused controversy recently over so called inclusionary language

Sources

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Politics Most Simple Episode 1 (The Northern Ireland Assembly Election): What is the DUP?

The DUP is the biggest Unionist party in Northern Ireland at the minute, currently holding the First Minister post — or at least when the Assembly is actually sitting. They helped hold up the British government between 2016-2019, back when Theresa May was Prime Minister, and for a short time when Boris Johnson became PM, although that changed after the December General Election of 2019.

But what are the simple points you need to know about the DUP before voting in the Assembly Election, and what values will you be voting for? In this blog, I am going to outline the key details you need to know about the DUP, so you can make the right decision on May 5.

The Democratic Unionist Party was founded by the late Ian Paisley in 1971 — an Evangelical Christian, who — prior to going into politics, was a minister. For this reason, a percentage of the party’s MLAs, MPs and electorate are Evangelical Christians, which has become a problem in politics within recent years. (There are also people in the party who would say they are moderate, but Evangelical beliefs are still a large part of their messages).

They are also — as the party’s full name suggests — Pro Union.

Now looking at Brexit, when the referendum on the UK leaving the EU was held, the DUP were the only party in Northern Ireland to support leaving the EU. They favoured a Brexit which would mean that the UK “leaves as one”, but when Soft Brexit options were debated in Westminster (I will do a series of blogs later describing the entire story of Brexit and why it still matters), they voted against each one.

When Boris Johnson came to power, originally on a “Pro Union” mandate, he promised that he would “Get Brexit Done”. After renegotiating the original Withdrawal Agreement and offering it to the EU, the DUP originally endorsed Johnson’s offer on the 2nd of October 2019, before announcing on the 17th of the same month that they planned to vote against it. When the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement eventually went to Parliament, the DUP voted against the Trade Deal, but it ended up passing anyway in December 2020, effectively delivering what is known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, or — explained simply for anyone who doesn’t follow UK politics — a border down the Irish Sea.

This is where the definition of the DUP starts getting interesting, as we see how much they changed in 2021.

Despite being firmly against the Protocol, the DUP started 2021 by trying to make the best of it. The then leader, Arlene Foster, even made a controversial appearance on The Late, Late Show on RTÉ, where she emphasised that, despite having left, the UK and the EU are still friends, and should work together. But within two months of the interview happening, there were calls for Arlene Foster to resign in April 2021 — after facing calls for her resignation and backlash from her inner circle of MLAs / MPs, after claims were made that she’s softened the DUP’s stance on Gay issues — not that the previous comments she made would have foretold this at all.

Since then, the DUP have found themselves tangled up in a mix of leadership crises, that has seen them going from having one leader to three within a few months (a milestone which has only been held before by their once big but from 2005 little brother, the UUP), with Edwin Poots — Arlene’s original replacement — only lasting for 21 days.

Poots was a Hard Line Unionist, who comes from a religious background, and is a big fan of the environment.

Their current leader is Sir Jeffrey Donaldson — a man who some say is moderate but who wants to be taken more seriously — who sent shock waves throughout Northern Ireland recently, by pulling the now former-First Minister, Paul Givan, out of government, in protest that the NI Protocol hasn’t been collapsed. This means that yet again, Northern Ireland has been left without a government, and to make matters worse, the parties still insist on arguing like little children, which means that — thanks to the Good Friday / Belfast and St Andrews Agreement — if one party doesn’t come back into the Assembly, Northern Ireland doesn’t have a government, unless Westminster returns us to Direct Rule, which just isn’t going to happen.

So to summarise what the DUP is:

  • They are a Christian, Pro-Union Party, with a percentage of Evangelical support, although they are also supported by mixed religions, even to the moderate extent.
  • They supported the UK leaving the EU in the 2016 Referendum, and wanted a deal where the entire UK left together, which lead them mostly into supporting most Hard Brexit Deals.
  • Before the British government passed Gay Marriage and Abortion Services into NI law, they were fundamentally against both political issues.
  • They are against Irish Language legislation, and Ulster Scots — but mainly due to how much each act will cost, and what money could get put into other areas.
  • They are determined to see the Northern Ireland Protocol collapsed, and will not return to the Assembly unless this happens.

Sources:

Paisley, Ian (Dictionary of Irish Biography): https://www.dib.ie/biography/paisley-ian-a10164

Ian Paisley first Minister of Northern Ireland: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ian-Paisley

Brexit: DUP Endorses Johnson’s Offer to European Union: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-49910285

DUP Says it Cannot Support Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/17/dup-boris-johnson-brexit-deal

DUP MPs to Vote Against Boris Johnson’s Post-Brexit Trade Deal: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-49910285

Arlene Foster, First Minister of Northern Ireland | The Late, Late Show | RTÉ One: https://youtu.be/NncuM5XAGfU

Arlene Foster Announces Resignation as DUP Leader and NI First Minister: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-56910045

DUP Leadership Vote to Take Place on 14 May: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-56973796

Edwin Poots Elected DUP Leader to Succeed Arlene Foster: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/14/edwin-poots-elected-dup-leader-to-succeed-arlene-foster

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson Ratified as DUP Leader by Party Executive: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jun/30/sir-jeffrey-donaldson-ratified-as-dup-leader-by-party-executivehttps://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jun/30/sir-jeffrey-donaldson-ratified-as-dup-leader-by-party-executive

Northern Irish Devolution Collapses Again: https://www.economist.com/britain/2022/02/12/northern-irish-devolution-collapses-again