Waking up the day after the election, when many expected a Conservative landslide reminiscent of the Thatcher years, the British electorate found themselves frantically googling who or what the Democratic Unionist Party, or DUP, are.
Politically, the DUP share a lot of ground with the American Republican Party. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where abortion is heavily restricted, and same-sex marriage is illegal. However, measures that would have legalised abortion and same-sex marriage have been blocked by a DUP ‘petition of concern’, a procedure designed to protect minority rights and ensure ‘cross-community’ support.
Not only are the DUP climate change deniers, but many of their senior members believe the Earth is the same age as the pyramids.
Also among their parliamentary team there is Gregory Campbell, whose chief contribution to the debate on the Irish language was to translate the Irish ‘go raibh maith agat, Ceann Chomlaire’ (thank you, Mr. Speaker), as ‘curry my yoghurt, can coca coalyer’.
Fellow DUP assembly-man Jeffery Donaldson spoke out against the reform of the 1701 Act of Settlement which barred Catholic succession to the throne by suggesting that Catholics were necessarily politically aligned to Rome.
The biggest stick the Conservatives had to beat Jeremy Corbyn with was the myth that he was a supporter of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and therefore a terrorist sympathiser; they have now aligned themselves with a party which is openly supported by Loyalist terrorists.
Emma Little-Pengelly, the newly-elected MP for Belfast South, received criticism throughout the campaign for an endorsement she received from a group closely associated to the Ulster Defence Association (UDA); which came after the leader of the party, Arlene Foster, received criticism of her own for meeting with the leader of UDA.
Outside of the Troubles, the DUP has also been embroiled in a number of scandals. One such example is the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal, a green energy scheme introduced back in 2012 to increase the use of renewable energy for heating systems in businesses and non-domestic properties by reimbursing them a percentage of the money spent.
However, the DUP failed to place a cap on the reimbursement paid to businesses which used wooden pellets meaning that costs spiralled. Although the RHI originally had a budget of just £25 million, the ultimate cost to the taxpayer came to £500 million. The DUP had found a way to literally burn money.
More by this commentator.