The DUP and mainstream Unionism: More Christofascist than Unionist?

Christofascism: The observation that in the West (particularly in the United States), there are demagogues who seek to replace the established secular governments with theocracies built on their version of Christianity.

I often wonder, do the DUP (and considerable elements of the UUP) seek a continued Union with Britain on the basis that it genuinely prefers its politics and culture; or is the root of its support for the Union to do with maximizing the power exerted by ultra-conservative Protestantism?

I feel this is a pertinent question because Northern Ireland – an area which according to the DUP fanatically supports all things British – is the only region in the British Isles that does not fully recognize the right of its people to marry.

Despite Queen Elizabeth giving same-sex marriage Royal Assent in July of 2013 – with Stephen Fry remarking that she regarded being able to do as “wonderful” – the forces of Ulster Unionism at Stormont overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in April 2015.

However you want to look at it, such a reality is deeply ironic. Mainstream Ulster Unionism often invokes its profound loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen, yet its analysis of same-sex marriage gives no consideration to the fact that their symbolic figurehead enabled its passage into English law nearly two years ago.

The Queen approved – reportedly with a sense of enthusiasm – the fruition of same-sex marriage in England and Wales, but with the exception of four MLAs, Stormont Unionism emphatically said no to such change occurring in Northern Ireland.

Now Unionism has historically portrayed the Republic of Ireland as an anti-Protestant conspirator, yet in line with the British government, the people of Ireland very clearly declared in May’s national referendum that they too recognized the right of marriage for all adult members of society.

Thus in effect, Ireland is psychologically closer to Britain on the matter of marriage equality than Irish Unionism (whose entire premise for existence is to draw Ireland closer to Britain both culturally and politically).

On the matter of same-sex marriage in the British Isles therefore – and this will extend to other future attempts to strengthen the presence of equality in the UK – Northern Ireland emanates the image of the “black sheep”.

Irish Unionism takes pride in the contentious six counties being perceived as “British”, but it is oddly Unionism itself that often reduces Northern Ireland to a fundamentalist Protestant cabal; showing very little of the secular qualities that continue to be fostered just across the sea in the “mainland”.

Consequently, what one cannot be condemned for theorizing is that the major Unionist parties (note: there are elected Unionists like Danny Kinahan and John McCallister who absolutely defy this broad tendency) are less motivated by objective arguments for the Union – i.e. economics, security etc. – and are in fact exponentially more concerned with preserving the influence of the teachings of their brand of Christianity (which is vastly different in nature to the most significant Christian force in the UK, the Anglican tradition).

Just consider the private attitudes Ian Paisley had toward the notion of British government interference in Northern Irish affairs. We have heard from numerous sources; including his OFMDFM partner Martin McGuinness, that despite presenting himself as a Unionist, Dr. Paisley was adamant (almost nationalistically) that Northern Ireland was for Northern Ireland to govern.

Essentially, Paisley broadly identified as unionist, but he was also cognizant of Britain’s rather liberal commitment to the doctrine of literalist Christianity; and so his sense of unionism was quite rudimentary in the sense that he acknowledged the British framework was of greater overall benefit to his religion, but he was not overtly politically British in the manner you would expect of a credible unionist.

The DUP’s sense of Unionism (again, the UUP often fall foul of this) is selective and ultimately artificial because in a choice between extending British change to Northern Ireland or upholding radical interpretations of the Christian Bible, Paisley and his successors always opt for the latter.

Thus, there is quite a compelling quality to the analysis that mainstream Irish unionism’s support for the Union is not centred upon its objective merits, but because strategically it is of most benefit to its real concern–the political, cultural and social prevalence of fundamentalist Christianity.