Right now, the most important woman in the #United Kingdom is not Queen Elizabeth II. It’s not Prime Minister Theresa May. For what is possibly the first time ever, it is not someone who even lives in Great Britain. It’s DUP leader #Arlene Foster.

DUP becomes vital to Theresa May after general election

After the unexpected result of the June 8th UK general election, the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, or DUP, just became the most important player in UK politics.

Theresa May and the Conservative Party lost their parliamentary majority, prompting May to do her best to scramble together a deal with another party in order to form a viable minority government.

Advertisements
Advertisements

With the next two largest parties, Labour and the Scottish Nationalist Party, or SNP, both eager to prevent another Tory government, the Conservatives have turned to the DUP for a political alliance.

Concerns over Conservative-DUP deal

Negotiations between Theresa May, Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, and Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, have been ongoing for a full week now, alongside major upsets in the Conservative party.

As the details of the deal remain secret, fears are beginning to mount. According to the BBC, so many people were looking up what the DUP was that their website crashed shortly after the election, and "DUP" became the most searched term on Google UK. #The British people are worried about what the DUP might request in return for their parliamentary support of the Conservatives, with rumors suggesting that lots of British funding will now be headed toward Northern Ireland.

Advertisements

So who is the woman who holds the fate of the UK in her hands?

Arlene Foster’s political story is a surprisingly personal one. She grew up during the Troubles on a farm near the Irish border. Her father, John Kelly, was a reserve officer in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, or RUC, so she was raised as a Unionist.

Having gone through many confusing splits, the Irish Republican Army, or IRA, was still very active during her childhood. Widely denounced for their violent approach to political issues and even labeled as terrorists, many feared the IRA. They shot her father in the head outside their farm for his belief in the Union. He survived, but seeing her father crawling into their house covered with blood must have left a significant mark on 8-year-old Arlene Foster.

Although her family sold their farm and entered government protection, the IRA continued to affect Arlene Foster’s life. As a teenager, the IRA detonated a bomb on her school bus. She was not hurt, but the student next to her had blood all over her arm and was seriously wounded.

Advertisements

With this background, it is unsurprising that Arlene Foster believes strongly in the United Kingdom.

She was the first one in her family to earn a university education and she joined the Ulster Unionist Party, or UUP, while studying law at school. She became a prominent member, but left at the end of 2003 to join the DUP.

As first minister for Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster proved that she is able to move past personal hurts and biases for the greater good of the DUP. She helped run a coalition government in Northern Ireland with the DUP and Sinn Fein: not only are these two parties complete opposites, but Sinn Fein has strong links to the IRA. After that, a deal with Theresa May should be easy. However, the British people are still worried that Arlene Foster will prioritize Northern Ireland over the rest of the UK.