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Meanwhile, back in the North… May 29, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
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This piece on Slate on the fact that Northern Ireland is now the only part of these islands where same sex marriage is prohibited is intriguing. One has to wonder how long they can hold out? It suggests that the DUP is the main stumbling block. Clearly it’s one of them… what do others think?

But, as intriguing is this:

Political homophobia is connected with religious power. Northern Irish people find themselves living under what has been called “essentially a theocratic regime,” due to the hold the Calvinist fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church has over the DUP. A recent study found that Free Presbyterianism “remains the largest faith among both DUP members and elected representatives.” As many as 30.5 percent of DUP members are Free Presbyterians, compared with a measly 0.6 percent of the Northern Irish population at large.

Two thoughts, is it quite a ‘theocratic’ regime of does the nature of the dispensation alter or ameliorate that? And is that correct about the membership of the DUP? According to this page here on wiki the church has 10,068 members in NI. And according to this, research by Professor John Tonge (quoted on the Irish National Caucus website, no less ) suggests:

just under a third of DUP members (30.5%) are Free Presbyterians and slightly more (34.6%) are members of the Orange institution.
To put these figures in context, the 2011 census recorded that there were 10,068 Free Presbyterians in Northern Ireland – just 0.6% of our total population.
Like most political parties, the DUP does not disclose its membership, but it is believed to number around 1,100 people.

Seems remarkably small, doesn’t it?

Some more interesting stuff:

Overall, Free Presbyterians are more than 50 times more common in the DUP than they are in the population. Orangemen are 21 times more common in the party.
The prevalence of both bodies increases as you move up the ranks. Almost 40% of the 175 DUP councillors elected in 2011 were Free Presbyterian and more than half (54.2%) were members of the Orange Order. These proportions may have fallen a little in the council elections held last month.
Among the DUP’s 38 MLAs over a third are Free Presbyterians and exactly half are Orangemen. The proportion increases further among the party’s eight MPs.

But, perhaps counterintuitively – or perhaps not:

Prof Tonge points out that the influence of the Free Presbyterian Church has declined over time, whereas the Orange Order membership appears to have increased.
This is partly due to an influx of new members between the signing of the Belfast, or Good Friday, Agreement in 1998, which it opposed, and 2006 when the DUP signed the St Andrews Agreement on power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

And:

Assessing the most active members of the party, Dr Tonge found: “It is the Orange contingent not, contrary to popular myth, the Free Presbyterians, who really count as the most active of all.”

By the by, any figures on the UUP membership numbers, or those of the SDLP, and while an all-Ireland party, how many SF members would there be in the North?

Comments»

1. Joe - May 29, 2015

It’s mad stuff. The north is different isn’t it? Almost like another country.

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2. sonofstan - May 29, 2015

I wish this was wider known; I hear so much of ‘each side as bad as the other’ stuff from people here, with no grasp of the fact that each may differently bonkers… (Only joking Roddy)

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3. RosencrantzisDead - May 29, 2015

It is unfair to lump this on the Free Presbyterian Church. The SDLP weaseled out of a gay marriage vote by having a few of its members miss the vote, presumably there is no Free Presbyterian influence there. Even the ‘liberal’ Alliance party sees dissent on this issue (Of course, that the Alliance are a crowd of hypocrites comes as no surprise to me). The UUP, who I believe are more likely to be CoI, overwhelmingly voted against allowing SSM also.

This clearly cuts across all the Christian denominations, but it also hints at a certain default social conservatism amongst the political classes. Religious fervour has always been a little stronger in Ulster. Try opening a pub or a bookies in Belfast and feel the push-back.

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4. roddy - May 29, 2015

Republican areas of the North which cover a very big geographical area bear no resemblance at all to the “dour North” stereotype. Nearly half of the district councils would have passed SF introduced motions on marriage equality and pubs and bookies would’nt be restricted at all.And SOS one side is DEFINITELY not as bad as the other.

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