Cultural shifts show Catholics should vote DUP, says academic
An Irish academic who joined the DUP because "it is the only party on the entire island which gives a voice to Catholics" believes more than 40% of the electorate could follow him.
Dr Ciaran O Coigligh, who has lectured in the Irish departments in Galway and Dublin universities, said Arlene Foster's claim that nationalists will vote for the DUP has "absolute substance" and voters are awakening to the new reality.
"The only political support for social conservatives in Ireland comes from the DUP and the only moral and cultural support comes from the Orange Order - this is an extraordinary time of opportunity for both," the devout Catholic said.
The retired Irish language and literature lecturer said he first realised that new alliances were emerging when he noted the absence of any pro-life party in the Republic.
"I then began to look north," he said.
"I saw people of principle in the DUP who were prepared to promote Christian values and in particular promote a culture of life and I was welcomed into the party with open arms - now I'm encouraging others to do the same."
The Co Dublin father-of-three said shifting cultural values in the Republic, as evidenced in the 2015 legalisation of same-sex marriage and the recent Yes victory in the abortion referendum, has led to a surge of interest in the DUP.
"Some people have also asked if the DUP would consider operating in the Republic and I have advised the party to look at this very seriously," he said.
The passionate Irish speaker, whose children consider it their first language, joined South Down MLA Jim Wells on the campaign trail to oppose the introduction of an Irish Language Act prior to the 2017 Assembly election.
Dr O Coigligh, who comes from a nationalist background, has no problem standing to sing God Save the Queen at DUP gatherings. He added that he no longer feels comfortable living in the Republic which he believes is "more divided than at any point since the Civil War".
"I think an enormous amount of nationalists in Northern Ireland are coming to realise that they would not be welcome in any sort of a united Ireland," he said.
Dr O Coigligh has long argued that the time has come for Catholics to vote for the DUP in Northern Ireland.
"A couple from Londonderry told me it caused enormous discussion with a lot of people concluding that I was right," he said.
He also defended Newry priest Father Damian Quigley for taking a stand on social issues as he slammed the wider Church leadership for its dereliction of duty.
"It would be completely inappropriate that someone purporting to campaign for the deliberate killing of unborn children to get married in any Christian church," he said.
"If any priests have a problem saying that, then they shouldn't be a priests."
However he reserved most of his scorn for Pope Francis who will arrive in Ireland this August as the nation hosts the World Meeting of Families.
"If there was a referendum on the environment the Pope would have been very vocal, and yet on this crucial issue of the right to life he was silent.
"The Catholic Church's capitulation in the face of secularism has left its parishioners ashamed," he said.
"There's a cohort of socially conservative people from all walks of life in the Republic of Ireland who are politically voiceless and I believe it could be upwards of 40% - only the DUP speak for them."