Roman Catholics like me back the DUP because it is the only Christian party in Ireland

I refer to correspondence from A. Thompson (‘Better to explain why Ken Clarke is wrong in his comments on DUP rather than criticise him,’ 22 January 2019), in which he suggested that the Democratic Unionist Party should, instead of criticising Mr Ken Clarke MP for suggesting that the party was a ‘sectarian Protestant party in Ireland’, show how that suggestion is wrong.

Friday, 1st February 2019, 9:45 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 8:26 pm
The 2018 DUP conference in Belfast last November. The party has extended a welcome to Roman Catholics, says Dr Ciarán Ó Coigligh, who has become a member. Picture by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

Firstly, the word ‘criticising’ is unwarranted. DUP spokesmen were very restrained in their response and pointed out that while Mr Clarke was very personable, as a Remainer, who supports Mrs May’s draft Brexit Agreement, he is increasingly out of touch with Conservative Party supporters.

To quote Wikipedia: ‘The Democratic Unionist Party evolved from the Protestant Unionist Party, which itself grew out of the Ulster Protestant Action movement. The DUP was founded on 30 September 1971 by [Revd] Ian Paisley, leader of the Protestant Unionist Party, and [Mr] Desmond Boal, formerly of the Ulster Unionist Party. [Dr] Paisley, a well-known Protestant fundamentalist minister, was the founder and leader of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster. He would lead both the DUP and the Free Presbyterian Church for the next 37 years, and his party and church would be closely linked.’

For the last ten years and more, the Democratic Unionist Party has extended a welcome to Roman Catholics to support the party at the ballot box and to become members of the party.

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I am one of those observant Roman Catholics who responded to that request by joining the party.

In a democratic society there is nothing wrong with a political party reflecting a particular faith-system or denomination.

There are many European parties which claim to be Christian Democrat.

It is true that the preponderance of members of the DUP are (Free, Reformed, or traditional) Presbyterians, (Independent) Methodists, (Independent) Baptists, or Anglicans.

It has been my experience that they are committed church-going Christians, with whom I have had the privilege of sharing fellowship, prayer and worship on occasion.

The percentage of Roman Catholics who vote for the DUP has increased over the last ten years and this will continue.

More importantly, Roman Catholics will join the DUP in growing numbers as they realise that the partly has become the only Christian party on the island of Ireland.

In fact the DUP is now the voice of more than one-third of the electorate of the Republic of Ireland on fundamental issues of life, marriage and family.

It may well be time for the DUP to establish itself in the Republic of Ireland.

I am, with every good wish,

Dr Ciarán Ó Coigligh, Clontarf, Dublin