Tuesday 10 May 2022

Is the DUP winning the Catholic Vote?

Putting your cross in the Protestant Box

           I hope and trust that all our readers, and certainly all our Prayer Crusaders, are ‘values voters’ or, rather, in most cases non-voters as there are so few candidates about for whom any Christian could vote in good conscience.  This time around UK, Irish and Commonwealth voters might be eligible to cast a ballot in local elections or for the Northern Ireland Assembly depending on where you have registered to vote.

             It is impossible to say anything about parties at the local elections as councillors are apt to be a law unto themselves.  Individual candidates have to be quizzed carefully as to their intentions with particular attention to such matters as whether they would wish to exercise licensing and planning powers to prevent the opening of new abortuaries and places of immoral entertainment, whether they are committed to the freedom to protest against existing establishments of those kinds and also against socially and morally damaging educational programmes, and whether they themselves would seek to prevent the introduction of such programmes where local authorities retain the ability to do so, whether they are committed to the rights of parents with respect to the manner in which their children are educated, and whether they will exclude men from female-use amenities and services irrespective of the socially constructed gender they claim as their own. 

             Stormont, however, is a different matter in that it is possible to recommend a party for your consideration although it is not one that springs immediately to mind for Catholic voters.  All the parties are committed to the far left consensus as to the scope of state action and the approximate level of public spending.  The differences, therefore, come down to moral and cultural issues as well  as the constitutional question.  For the values voter the moral issues must come first every time, and only one party of government offers a safe and consistent stance on all the subjects we hold most dear, and that party is the DUP, Dr. Paisley’s party.  As I said, not, perhaps, the ‘go to’ vote for a Catholic, but why ever not?  Stormont will not discuss dogmatic theology, and Westminster has not done so for a very long time indeed; the only theology ever debated in either forum is moral theology on which the evangelical Protestant is at one with us on almost all issues, the exception being divorce and remarriage on which some of them anomalously depart from the literal meaning of the biblical text for no better reason than that some of the early so-called ‘reformers’ from whom their sects derive their doctrines chose to do so either for political considerations or from personal weakness.  The DUP is reasonably reliable on divorce, and candidates can be persuaded to harden their opposition to no fault divorce at will and the reduction of the marital bond to a secular contract.  They are wholly reliable in opposing abortion both as it is legally defined and in the form of providing abortifacients described, wrongly, as contraceptives; and they have consistently opposed the promotion of homosexual practices and the related phenomenon of transgenderism since Dr. Paisley’s own Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign (on which our bishops should have given him far more support than they did).  Neither of the major parties associated with the Catholic community offers a policy programme consonant with Catholicism, indeed SF can now be relied upon to oppose Catholic moral teaching on almost all points.  As for the SDLP, while it is only fair to acknowledge that many of its candidates (but by no means all) are opposed to abortion, the party subscribes to the ‘gay rights’ agenda and to the enforcement of ‘equalities education’ derived from it; many candidates also support transgenderism.

             The remaining cultural and constitutional questions might give pause for thought before voting DUP, but there is reason to think that the DUP would become more flexible on Irish and Catholic culture if it were in their electoral interests to do so.  As for the constitutional question, who wants to re-enter the Godless EU or to join the post-Catholic Republic?  The EU has given ample demonstration through its manipulation of trading arrangements and threats to close the border that it has little interest in the interests of Northern Ireland; it is also beginning to show a marked lack of sympathy towards the Republic.  Neither the Republic’s nor the British government  has any sympathy with the aspiration of the people of Ulster to maintain natural law-based provisions of the common law on life issues but the devolutionary UK offers better prospects than the unitary Republic.        

             Culturally, while the DUP will, I am sure, continue to oppose celebration of the Republican struggle, it may be induced to accept such public manifestations of our faith as Corpus Christi processions, rosary walks and the erection of statues.  The biggest point of disagreement has not been over a religious question at all, but over the Irish language to which many Protestants object as they fail to appreciate that, far from being some sort of import into the North, the Gaelic language is the common heritage of the Dal-riada from which their people originate as much as do our own.  That confusion is, of course, shared by many Catholics and is compounded by the manner in which Gaelic is spelled and taught in Ulster.  The misunderstanding is, unfortunately, incorporated into the Good Friday Agreement’s treatment of the subject as well. 

             The truth of the matter is that the six counties contain few areas in which Irish was still the principal spoken language at any point in the twentieth century; the language has, rather, been chosen as a medium for education by families, and learnt by adults, who have in most cases a political aspiration to see a united Ireland (the exceptions are generally Protestants like the late Paul Hamill, with a deep commitment to community harmony and cultural unity within Northern Ireland).  It is taught very much as a foreign language using the Free State spellings rationalised in the twenties and thirties, and the vocabulary and syntax favoured by the Southern establishment, which is to say the Kerry dialect.  Although both Gaeltacht areas lie within the Republic its educational authorities dislike Donegal dialect words still used by older people (most of whom remember many more having been in regular use by their grandparents whose rhythm of speech was also, somehow, subtly different), and wish to stamp out any tendency to revert to traditional spellings that might linger on.  The English authorities now require children to be taught a formal written language but no longer desire that children, as the old joke has it, ‘talk proper’ instead of retaining dialect speech; and the Welsh are free to use Northern or Southern spellings and vocabulary as they please.  The weaponisation of Gaelic is most undesirable.  The Good Friday Agreement suggests that the language would be best fostered by an extension of the Teilifís na Gaeilige service across the six UK counties, but I would strongly suggest that an extension of the remit, workforce and broadcasting capabilities of the Alba service to serve the requirements of all nine counties as well as the current audience in Scotland and its islands would provide better results both practically and in terms of cross-community relations and a broader acceptance and actual use of the Gaelic language.  Having learned the traditional spellings used in the island Gaidhealteachd, children and adult learners might take an additional short paper on Free State spellings and the vocabulary variants of the South.    The linguistic standard which should apply to Ulster is that found in the surveys of, and publications on Ulster of the (nationalist) Gaelic League in the latter part of the nineteenth century before partition, rationalised spelling or standardised Irish had been devised.  As our report on the future of British broadcasting recommended, the programmes on offer should address the interests of listeners and viewers in Northern Ireland. 

             It is also worth remembering that, as a Catholic voter, the DUP will pay far closer attention to your needs and your opinions than any party would to somebody who had not crossed community lines to lend them their support.  Ultimately, values voters can only succeed by coming together in the sort of broad movement that has achieved so much in America.   

By Prayer Crusader St Philip Howard.

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