Northern Ireland

Jeffrey Donaldson says DUP appeal to more Catholic voters

Jeffrey Donaldson said Catholics are now voting for the DUP
Jeffrey Donaldson said Catholics are now voting for the DUP

JEFFREY Donaldson has said that there are a growing number of Catholics voting for the DUP due to their stance of issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

In a revealing interview with The Irish Catholic, the DUP MP explained how his strong Christian views meant that he felt those of different denominations should work together to promote the values they share.

A former part-time Ulster Defence Regiment soldier, Mr Donaldson is the north’s longest standing MPs, being first elected to the house in 1997.

He is widely know for his split with David Trimble over the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, before he joined the DUP along with Arlene Foster in 2004.

The combined nationalist vote in the last three years has fallen from 42 per cent in 2011 to 36 per cent in May’s assembly election, leading to speculation that many Catholics have either chosen not to back nationalist parties, or had voted for unionist candidates.

Indeed, senior Sinn Fein figure Anne Brolly revealed to The Irish News in October that she had left the party due to their stance on abortion.

Mr Donaldson said he has had first-hand experience of Catholic voters supporting the DUP for these reasons.

"In the recent Assembly elections I met Catholics in the Lisburn area who were very clear about this on the doorstep. They said, 'Jeffrey, we are a Catholic family and all of us are voting for the DUP because we support the stance you take on social issues',"he said.

"They said they were voting for the DUP for the first time. How significant this is I am not sure but I know it is there and it is growing."

The senior DUP figure also opened up about how he supported the party’s use of the controversial petition of concern mechanism in order to block legislation on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion in cases of fatal-foetal abnormality from passing in the assembly.

He said that the tool is "a mechanism to protect the interests of minorities, plural" and argued that Christians are a category who should be protected by it.

"I find it ironic that those who support same-sex marriage, who argue that they are a majority in Northern Ireland, do not believe that the Christian minority, as they would describe them, should have the right to be protected in any way," he said.

"The very same people who argue that LGBT rights should be protected in law because LGBT people are a minority are the same people who argue that the Christians should not have the same level of protection."

The once die-hard unionist also said that, since his beginning in politics some three decades ago, he has softened somewhat in his views.

"My journey over the past 30 years has been a journey that has changed me and Northern Ireland has changed. In fact, I would use the word transformation."