Theresa May has confirmed that she will form a coalition with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.
After the Conservatives failed to gain a majority in Thursday’s snap General Election, with 318 seats opposed to Labour’s 261 seats, May has sought – and gained – permission from The Queen to form a UK government.
326 seats are needed to claim a parliamentary majority – with the addition of the DUP’s 10 seats, the Conservatives have been able to reach that number and avoid a hung parliament.
But who are the DUP? Led by Arelene Foster, the party managed to claim 10 of Northern Ireland’s 18 seats in Thursday’s election, compared to their eight seats in the previous General Election in 2015.
They also hold a number of controversial views – as well as opposing the legalisation of abortion, the party has a strong anti-LGBT record and have continuously come out against same-sex marriage.
In November 2015, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted in favour of marriage equality, but the DUP tabled a controversial ‘petition of concern’ to block the motion from passing.
During her time as finance minister, current DUP leader Foster said the country should “leave things as they are” and argued: “Just because you keep saying it is an equality issue doesn’t make it an equality issue.”
She recently justified her position once again by claiming that she knows “plenty” of gay people who don’t want to get married, claiming it’s all become “a storm in a teacup”.
The party’s continued opposition to marriage equality comes despite reports that 68% of Northern Ireland’s population support it and calls from Amnesty International for them to “reflect the will of the people”.
Much like the ’religious freedom’ bills that are commonly touted by Republicans in the United States, the DUP also supports the introduction of a ‘conscience clause’ which would allow individuals and businesses to discriminate based on religious beliefs.
But it’s no surprise that the DUP hold such extreme anti-LGBT views.
The party was set up in 1971 by Ian Paisley, who has a long history of opposing LGBT+ rights and spearheaded a campaign called ‘Save Ulster From Sodomy’ which attempted to keep homosexuality illegal.
And those bigoted views run through the party to this day – Paisley’s son and North Antrim MP, Ian Paisley Jr, said in 2007 that he’s “pretty repulsed” by gay people, and claimed that they “harm society”.
Peter Robinson, who served as leader of the DUP from 2008 until 2015, said during a BBC interview that if homosexuality was ever re-criminalised he would expect people to “obey the law”.
Back in 2015, the party’s Health Minister Jim Wells was investigated by police and eventually resigned after claiming that children were “far more likely to be abused and neglected” by same-sex parents.
And last year, DUP politician Trevor Clarke admitted that he didn’t know straight people could contract HIV.
According to reports, the party only committed to propping up the Conservatives if they agreed to pursue a soft Brexit and remain in the single market.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson told the BBC that he believes his party will be in a “very, very strong negotiating position” after offering their help in forming a coalition.
“This is perfect territory for the DUP obviously,” he said. “We will be serious players if there is a hung parliament… We have a lot in common [with the Conservatives]. We want to see Brexit work, we want the Union strengthened.”