An Irish language scholar from the Republic of Ireland has been campaigning to get a loyalist bandsman elected as a DUP candidate – and says he has found “huge support” in republican areas for the DUP’s anti-abortion stance.
Ciarán Ó Coigligh, a poet, author and retired academic, has been campaigning for multiple DUP candidates across Northern Ireland ahead of tomorrow’s council’s elections.
Mr Ó Coigligh, who has described himself as a devout Christian, is one of the small number of Catholic DUP supporters who have backed the party’s socially conservative policies on issues such as abortion and gay marriage.
One of those for whom he has been campaigning is Quincey Dougan, an Orange amateur historian and one of Northern Ireland’s most prominent members of the loyalist band community who is standing in Cusher ward in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council area.
Mr Ó Coigligh helped the bandsman to erect unusual anti-abortion posters for a local government election which consist of the candidate’s name and the message: ‘Fighting for the life of the child in the womb’.
Mr Dougan said that he erected the posters in nationalist parts of the south Armagh constituency as part of an attempt “to ensure that I canvassed all communities and all parts of my catchment area”. He said that there were areas which “unionism has in the past only touched on a superficial basis, perhaps because of perceptions that it was not worth it given the lack of potential votes”.
Mr Dougan accepted that abortion was not primarily an issue for local government but said that it was a topic on which he felt passionately and “I believe these big issues are important” and councillors had a role in lobbying beyond their council work. However, he said that 16 posters were removed in what he believed was “an organised exercise”.
Mr Ó Coigligh said: “I have found huge support for the DUP stance on abortion in nationalist/republican areas ... people as diverse as a former GAA county captain and a former member of the UDA who served a sentence in Long Kesh in the early 70s said that cross-community support for the DUP was the way forward and that they admired my modest efforts in this regard.”
Mr Dougan said that he had respect for the Irish languaage – and Mr Ó Coigligh translated one of his booklets on Orangeism into Irish – but did not support an Irish language act.