Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Voting record belies DUP's radical EU image

  • MEP Diane Dodds seen on a tv screen (Photo: European Parliament)

Two MEPs from the British Liberal Democrat and Labour parties did not mince their words when asked their opinion of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the wake of the UK election.

Labour MEP Seb Dance was short but clear.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • The MEP for the DUP often votes similar to the Tories (Photo: European Parliament / Pietro Naj-Oleari)

“The DUP are nuts. You can quote me on that,” he told EUobserver in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Catherine Bearder, an MEP for the Liberal Democrats who is fiercely opposed to Brexit, said the DUP had a history of homophobia and misogyny.

“She's so far right, she can't sit with the Conservatives,” Bearder said of Diane Dodds, the sole DUP member in the EU parliament.

The MEPs spoke amid DUP talks with the Conservative Party on a UK coalition designed to keep prime minister Theresa May in power.

But a look at Dodds’ voting records showed that she was not too different from the Conservatives in years gone by.

Dodds is a so-called non-attached member, which means that she is not in any of the parliament’s eight political groups.

The website It's Your Parliament compares MEPs’ aggregate voting behaviour. Dodds has been in the EU assembly since 2009, but the site’s data has not been updated since 2011.

Comparing Dodds to all groups, she had most in common with the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), the group in which the Conservatives sit.

EUobserver also used the online tool Votewatch to look at some key votes in EU parliament plenary sessions in recent months and found that Dodds often voted along Tory lines.

Like the Conservatives, she voted last month against a non-binding resolution that condemned the political situation in Hungary.

She also voted against the adoption of an annual report about the protection of the EU's financial interests and a non-binding resolution on Brexit - just like the Tories.

Unlike France’s far-right National Front party, Dodds does not try to soften declarations on Russia.

In April, she supported a text that condemned the arrest of Russian opposition members. The month before that, she backed a text that voiced concern about the situation in Russian-occupied Crimea in Ukraine.

Not blocking climate action

The DUP and the Conservatives did not see eye to eye on the DUP’s anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage policies, but these issues are up to member states to legislate on.

Environmental pressure group Greenpeace has highlighted that the words “environment” and “climate change” did not appear in the DUP’s manifesto.

But any claim that the DUP were climate change sceptics would not square with Dodds' voting in Strasbourg.

She supported a reform of the Emissions Trading System, the EU's most important climate action tool.

She abstained on several other climate-related votes, but, like most MEPs, she supported new rules on reducing waste and a system aimed at preventing another Dieselgate-type car emissions scandal.

Dodds has also voted in favour of the use of genetically modified organisms and so-called novel foods.

Forgettable member

She is a member of the agriculture and the fisheries committee - two topics that are important to the economy in Northern Ireland.

But one MEP on the committee, who asked to remain anonymous, said that they hardly ever worked with her.

“As an independent, she is not allowed at shadow meetings,” the MEP said.

When asked if they recalled any recent statements by Dodds in the agriculture committee, the MEP said Dodds did not voice memorable opinions.

“If she says something, it's a conservative point of view. She doesn't stand out,” the MEP said.

Paisley legacy

That is very different from the party's first member of the European Parliament: the late DUP founder, Ian Paisley.

Paisley was an MEP from the first time the EU parliament had elections, in 1979, and remained a member until 2004.

He styled himself as the first-ever eurosceptic and as an enfant terrible, giving the DUP the radical reputation it still has today.

Paisley was a Protestant cleric accused of inciting sectarian hatred in the Northern Ireland conflict.

He once said the EU was a Catholic conspiracy and heckled the late pope John Paul II as the “anti-Christ”.

The DUP is expected to press May to seek a softer Brexit in order to keep open the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, in what amounted to an “ironic” reversal of its anti-EU origins, another MEP, who did not want to give their name, noted.

Dodds was not available for an interview.

May clings to power with Northern Irish unionists

May announced the formation of a minority government with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party. She might not be in power for too long, and the clock keeps ticking for Brexit negotiations.

Barnier: UK has to move on Brexit

No breakthrough emerged from the meeting between the top EU and UK negotiators on Monday evening in Brussels. Michel Barnier urged the UK to move on its red lines to help clinch a deal, with 45 days left until Brexit.

EU and UK agree - but only to hold further Brexit talks

After Theresa May's "robust" talks with top EU officials, London and Brussels agree to talk further - even though their opposing positions have not inched closer. European Parliament president Antonio Tajani warned "We're weeks from an economic and human catastrophe."

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Opinion

Lost in Brexit chaos - abortion rights in Northern Ireland

Labour MP Diana Johnson has brought a private members bill to Westminster that proposes to decriminalise abortion in the whole of the UK, which means that, if successfully passed, current provisions for Northern Ireland will also be repealed.

May on whistle-stop EU tour to seek new backstop pledges

The British prime minister dramatically delayed a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal at the last minute, as she faced defeat. Theresa May will now speed-tour EU capitals to try to secure further political guarantees.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us