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DUP shares similar values with Catholic Church: priest

By Steven Alexander

A Catholic priest has said he welcomes the DUP's imminent role at the heart of Westminster - as the party shares some of the moral values of his church.

And Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith - a doctor of moral theology and consulting editor of The Catholic Herald - said that former party leader Ian Paisley was now "laughing in heaven" at the fact that the DUP was keeping republican sympathiser Jeremy Corbyn out of Downing Street.

Separately, anti-abortion campaigners have launched a petition calling on Theresa May to condemn attacks on DUP MPs for opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.

Writing in The Catholic Herald, Fr Lucie-Smith wrote that DUP leader Arlene Foster "represents a new type of politician in Northern Ireland, and a new type of unionism".

While he noted how original DUP leader Rev Paisley - later Lord Bannside - "became something of a national treasure" in his old age, he recognised that "there are many who grew up in the province who remember him as someone who contributed greatly to the atmosphere of sectarian hatred, which made the lives of many Catholics a misery".

Fr Lucie-Smith - the parish priest at St Hugh's Church in Knaphill in Surrey - suggested Mrs Foster represented a post-Paisley unionism.

The Catholic commentator observed that Mrs Foster "as a woman, is not able to join the Orange Order, and who has a track record of making gestures that show she is not sectarian".

"As chief executive of the Stormont government she indicated she would meet the Pope, should he visit in his capacity as head of state. She attended Martin McGuinness's funeral, which was a Requiem Mass," he wrote.

He said that while Mrs Foster had her political problems, the DUP and Catholic Church shared some common beliefs.

"Catholics can welcome the advent of the DUP into government for the very same reasons that certain other people will regard it with horror: the DUP is the only party in the United Kingdom that is against abortion and which is opposed to same-sex marriage, and the extension of either to Northern Ireland," Fr Lucie-Smith wrote.

"DUP MPs have a consistent pro-life record in the British parliament, and have had for years. This is one matter on which they have agreed with Catholics for a long time."

The priest added that Ian Paisley once "was a thorn in the side of 'that Jezebel' Mrs Thatcher".

"Now his party will be propping up her successors," he wrote.

"Once Jeremy Corbyn associated with the as-yet uncommitted to peace members of Sinn Fein.

"Now Sinn Fein's opponents in Northern Ireland will be keeping Jeremy Corbyn away from the levers of power in Westminster.

"Paisley, who, as I remarked earlier, had a sense of humour, would have relished that. Perhaps he is laughing in heaven. Mrs Foster and her colleagues will certainly be laughing at the thought of the political leverage they will now enjoy."

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has been urged to speak out against criticism of the DUP.

A hard-hitting petition has been launched by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).

It states: "We the undersigned call upon the Prime Minister to reject the anti-Christian bigotry of the vicious attacks on Northern Ireland's MPs.

"The hostility directed at Northern Ireland MPs is an attempt to silence anyone in public life who seeks to defend marriage based on Christian principles and the right to life of unborn babies.

"The United Kingdom is founded on Christian principles and those who uphold Christian values are not extremists. As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, it is your responsibility to ensure that anti-Christian prejudice has no place in British politics."

Liam Gibson, SPUC's NI development officer, said: "The DUP is solidly pro-life and has consistently voted to defend all human life, not only in Northern Ireland, but at Westminster and in Europe as well.

"They have also defended marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman. This position reflects the views of the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland as well as a solid block of opinion in Britain."

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