Sunday, 25 November 2012

Are 'progressive' DUP looking to turn back the clock

The DUP at their annual conference handed out to their members a survey.

According to Slugger O'Toole there are the usual things you'd expect to see on a membership survey. Opinions on level of subs, views on merger with the UUP, how the party should change, women representation in politics and views on quota of female candidates. None of this stuff would generally look out of place in any survey of party members anywhere.

Image by Alan in Belfast CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs
The DUP has taken to calling itself the party of progress, though many of doubt how far that progress has got apart from agreeing to form an administration with Sinn Féin.

However, in this survey there is also then a section seeking opinions on various issues of the days.

  • view on academic selection for entry to secondary education - a Northern Irish hot potato since the state exams have been done away with yet the Grammar schools are largely using their own sets of unregulated tests now instead
  • view on legalising abortion - with the opening of the first private abortion clinic in Northern Ireland another hot potato
  • view on the UK adopting the Euro - as Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with a land border with the Eurozone and many shops accepting both here another live issue
The final 'issue' in this section is three words:

homosexuality is wrong

In each case of the four above respondents are asked if they Strongly Agree / Agree / Neither agree nor disagree/ Disagree/ Disagree strongly. Now I'm wondering how the last of these can be viewed as progressive.

For the last one to be interjected into that section screams out as just the contrary to the progressive image that the party keeps talking up about itself. For a start the Belfast agreement means that respect has to be given to each community and minority in Northern Ireland, that includes based on sexual orientation. Also the hot potato in that area can either be marriage equality, adoption by same-sex couples or the blood ban. But the DUP is asking instead if the decision 30 years ago to legalise homosexuality here in Northern Ireland is wrong.

It is a rather pointed and short statement. It harks back to the debate on equal marriage in Stormont where the only person to take the debate on equal marriage back steps was Sammy Wilson, who alone said he didn't think Civil Partnerships were a good idea. Is this question a bid by the DUP to take the situation back to pre-1982 if they feel they have the support. 

If they do it would be bizarre after a question about the UK adopting the Euro as its currency to go against and European Court on Human Rights ruling. Considering the party is also considering taking the unusual step here in Northern Ireland of running two candidates for the European Election in 2014 they are seeking to be sole Unionist voice under our STV election it would appear they want Europe but only on their terms.

However, when part of those terms is to say that any of the groups covered by section 75 of the Belfast Agreement are wrong, whether that is by sexuality, by involvement in the troubles of whatever how can they claim to be progressive?

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