Differences on Pride reflect DUP tensions on social issues

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The surprising thing, perhaps, is that the tensions within the DUP on social matters have barely been apparent previously.

But it was inevitable that the radical changes that there have been in countries across the world towards, for example, same sex relations would ultimately impact on the DUP too.

While the party was founded by a fundamentalist preacher, Rev Ian Paisley, it was from its inception a coalition of firm unionists, not just a political wing of the Free Presbyterians, even though the latter had disproportionate influence. Now the DUP is the largest unionist party and has support across the unionist community, many of whom are irreligious.

On Saturday Emma Little-Pengelly tweeted a message of implied support for the gay pride celebrations in Belfast, which did not mention the event in question. She is a young MP in a city where young people would overwhelmingly be relaxed about, or supportive of, such a parade. The “surprise” of Jim Wells is a foretaste of a coming clash in the party.

On these pages we have carried letters from Catholics who support the DUP on the basis of its opposition to abortion and gay marriage. Such supporters are small in number but will disappear entirely if the DUP liberalises.

An obvious route for the party is to make such matters a conscience issue for representatives, as the liberal Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie thinks all parties should do. But even that compromise by the DUP will dismay traditional Christians.

Such traditionalists, meanwhile, are right to be alarmed at the PSNI marching in Pride events or the National Trust forcing volunteers in Norfolk to wear Pride badges (the conservation group later reversed that requirement).

That is not a commentary on the merit or otherwise of Pride events, but a recognition of their political campaigning for law reform. Pride has every right to do that backing Pride appears to endorse that campaign, which is not the function of either the police or the Trust.