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Stormont Christian Coalition?

With such a large number of 'Saved' MLAs in the Assembly, political commentator Dr John Coulter examines how internal DUP unease over power-sharing with Sinn Fein could affect plans for form a Christian Coalition at Stormont.

Dr John Coulter • 28 April 2007

Plans to form a Bible-bashing group among Stormont MLAs have been thumped on the head because of differences over the 8 May power-sharing Executive, liberal Unionist sources were claiming last night.

'Born Again' or 'Saved' MLAs could make up a so-called Christian Coalition in the Assembly, comprising at least a dozen to 15 Assembly members, mainly from the DUP, but some from the Ulster Unionists.

Saved or Born Again MLAs would base their Christian faith on the Salvationist position as outlined in the Biblical text from the New Testament, St John Chapter 3, verse 16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

However, a well-placed liberal Unionist source last night said internal disagreements within the DUP over the pace of power-sharing had put the brakes on plans to set up the Coalition.

The source said: “Even before the Assembly election, some DUP and UUP activists were estimating a significant number of these fundamentalist Bible thumpers would be returned.

“They wanted to form a Christian Coalition similar to the so-called moral majority in the United States' Republican Party which backs President Bush.

“If the Coalition became a reality at Stormont, among the agenda was to ensure the study of Creation – the view that God created the world – would be firmly integrated in school science lessons, and not just in religious education as an alternative to evolution studies.

“Naturally, the Coalition would push a strong agenda opposing homosexuality, divorce, and abortion. The real irony is that while the Coalition would have been initiated by the religious fundamentalist wing in the DUP, there were issues which conservative Catholic MLAs could have supported.

“The Coalition would also have attempted to overturn the Sexual Orientation Act and civil partnerships between same sex couples, although the latter would have put the Assembly on a head to head collision course with the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights.

“Those of us who don't subscribe to this 'born again' religious agenda have branded the so-called Christian Coalition as the BBC – the Bible Bashers Club,” said the liberal Unionist source.

Clearly, if such a Coalition got off the ground, the favourite to lead it would be First Minister designate and DUP boss Ian Paisley senior, who is also Moderator of the staunchly fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.

Other 'born again' or fundamentalist DUP MLAs who could be recruited by the Christian Coalition are:

  • Paisley's son, Ian Junior, from North Antrim, who is also a hot tip to succeed his father as the constituency's Westminster MP.
  • Mervyn Storey from North Antrim, a leading member of the fundamentalist Independent Orange Order and a founder member of the ultra evangelical Caleb Foundation.
  • George Dawson from East Antrim, the Grand Master of the Independent Orange Order, founding chairman of Caleb, and a leading activist with the fundamentalist Evangelical Protestant Society.
  • Gregory Campbell, the MP for East Derry and a member of the Independent Orange Order.
  • Jeffrey Donaldson from Lagan Valley, a Past Assistant Grand Master of the Orange Order.
  • Edwin Poots from Lagan Valley.
  • Rev William McCrea, the MP for South Antrim, a leading Free Presbyterian minister and internationally known Gospel singer.
  • Ian McCrea, Rev William's son from Mid Ulster.David Simpson, the MP for Upper Bann who toppled former UUP boss David Trimble from his Commons seat. Mr Simpson is also a well-known Gospel singer.
  • Nigel Dodds, the MP for North Belfast, and a hot top, too, for a ministerial post in the power-sharing Executive.
  • Nelson McCausland, also from North Belfast. He is a former activist with the fundamentalist Lord's Day Observance Society and a Gospel singer.
  • Jim Wells from South Down.

As well as these DUP MLAs, the Christian Coalition also hoped to recruit at least two UUP MLAs.

These were: Danny Kennedy, the party deputy leader from Newry and Armagh, and a leading elder in Bessbrook Presbyterian Church, as well as veteran North Antrim MLA Rev Robert Coulter, an ordained Presbyterian minister and Past Assistant Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution.

However, the Coalition project hit the rocks in the short-term because of unease in the DUP camp concerning power-sharing with republicans.

Three MLAs who would have been viewed as key figures in the Coalition, Rev McCrea and Mr Simpson, who are also MPs, and Mr Wells have publicly voiced their unhappiness about the deal with Sinn Fein.

It is also known an entirely separate prayer union at Stormont has been set up by Donaldson and Kennedy, similar to a prayer group which exists at Westminster in which Donaldson is also active.














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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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