Having lost its majority in the British House of Commons in Thursday’s election, the prime minister’s Conservative Party is now maneuvering to stay in power by forging an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a political party that presents itself as the voice of protestants in Northern Ireland. There are plenty of problems with such a move. The DUP is stridently socially conservative on issues like reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights, much more than the Conservative Party or most of the British public.
But an alliance with the DUP also has implications for the brittle peace in Northern Ireland. As Jonathan Powell, former chief British negotiator on Northern Ireland, told Sky news this morning, “Since 1991, when a Tory secretary of state in Northern Ireland said that Britain would be neutral in Northern Ireland—not take the side of the Unionists, not take the side of the nationalists—that we had no strategic selfish interest in Northern Ireland. If we now find ourselves taking sides, how on Earth are we going to mediate between the Unionists and the nationalists where we are trying to establish government? Now, we have a political crisis there. Do we really want to make the political crisis worse, just so the government can stagger on?”
The peace in the north is precarious at the best of times and has recently been unsettled by Brexit, which might lead to tighter border control between Ireland and Northern Ireland. May’s dalliance with the DUP will only make the situation more dire.