UK's Conservative Party agrees £1 billion deal with the Northern Ireland's Protestant DUP
A £1 billion deal has been done between Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party and the Conservative Party to secure a majority for the government of Theresa May in Parliament.
Prime Minister May and DUP leader Arlene Foster went ahead with the 'confidence and supply' agreement in spite of warnings from prominent Conservatives such as Lord Patten, a committed Catholic, that the DUP is a 'toxic brand' that will make the Conservatives look like the 'nasty party'.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that does not permit gay marriage. The DUP is ultra-conservative on issues such as gay rights and abortion and the deal is certain to alarm social liberals on all sides of the political divide.
As Andy Walton writes for Christian Today, because of the DUP's roots in the conservative evangelical Presbyterian community of Northern Ireland, and owing to their socially conservative stance on abortion and gay marriage, the spotlight has been on the wisdom of May's deal.
The £1 billion is for infrastructure such as health. There is also an extra £500 million on the table for additional spending in Northern Ireland.
There was a rash of criticism of the deal on social media, but the blogger Adrian Hilton, known as Archbishop Cranmer, was among those who tweeted his support:
The deal, published in full, and offered in return for the support of the DUP, comes after two weeks of talks which began after May lost her Parliamentary majority in the June 8 General Election
As part of the deal, signed by Gavin Williamson for the Conservatives and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson for the DUP, there will be no downgrade to the pensions triple lock and the winter fuel payments will remain. It states that the aims, principles and implementation will be reviewed at the end of each parliamentary session.
The DUP has 10 out of Parliament's 650 MPs. The deal is not a coalition, although a 'coordination committee' has been set up. Conservatives will be anxious to ensure it is certainly not a 'coalition of chaos'.
It is intended to last through the term of this Parliament, until 2022, and May hopes it will help her get her Brexit plans through safely.
May said: 'I welcome this agreement which will enable us to work together in the interest of the whole United Kingdom, give us the certainty we require as we embark on our departure from the European Union, and help us build a stronger and fairer society at home.'
Foster said: 'Today we have reached an agreement with the Conservative Party on support for government in parliament. This agreement will operate to deliver a stable government in the United Kingdom's national interest at this vital time.'
Northern Ireland has itself been in crisis since Sinn Fein pulled out of government in January, prompting an election in March and a series of missed deadlines to restore the compulsory coalition between Irish Catholic nationalists and pro-British Protestant unionists. This coming Thursday is the latest deadline set by the British government for the parties in Northern Ireland to reach an agreement is Thursday. The DUP deal with May's party was crucial to Northern Ireland being able to move forward.
Additional reporting by Reuters.