A leading Catholic commentator has said that some Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland are increasingly dismayed by the gulf which has developed between nationalist parties and the Catholic Church and are therefore considering voting for the DUP.
In an article for the Irish Catholic David Quinn warned that the Catholic Church “can expect zero support from our Catholic politicians” in coming moral debates.
Mr Quinn, founder of the Iona Institute, a largely Catholic lobby group, referred to the views of Fr Eugene O’Neill, who in an interview with the News Letter in 2012 “said something that was previously unutterable and maybe even literally unthinkable. He questioned whether Catholics in Northern Ireland had to be nationalists”.
In the interview Fr O’Neill said that no priests under the age of 45 are interested in removing the border and that as an Irish passport-holder he saw the Queen and senior British Government figures as defenders of faith in the UK, while the Republic was now “a cold house for Catholicism”.
Mr Quinn said: “Since then, things have become worse ... in 2013, we introduced our first abortion law and now the government, with the full backing of the opposition parties, are rushing through the most radical family law reform in the history of the State – the Children and Family Relationships Bill – in preparation for the referendum on same-sex marriage on May 22.”
He highlighted how when attempts have been made to argue for more protections for Christians or opposing abortion, “in each of the above cases the prime mover isn’t the nationalist parties, but the DUP”.
“This is what has some Catholics questioning their previous allegiance to the nationalist parties. Previously they saw those parties as being sympathetic to Catholic concerns and the DUP as being irredeemably hostile. Now they are beginning to wonder.”
He added: “It’s not that they’re unionists per se. It’s just that they feel they are now being forced to divide their loyalties between their nationalism and their Catholicism.”
He highlighted how in recent times the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland had “found no allies in the erstwhile Catholic parties. Their friends were in the DUP”.
He added: “They [Ulster Catholics} might not start voting for the likes of the DUP just yet, but the fact that this option is even being talked about shows how the nationalist parties in the North are beginning to alienate some of their Catholic voters.”