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The DUP are the real winners of the 2017 general election

Having gone from eight seats to 10, they will now wield massive influence over the next government. 

It has been a sensational election for the DUP in more ways than one. Not only have are they on course to win 10 of Northern Ireland’s 18 seats – up from eight in 2015 – but the likelihood is that the Conservatives will need their support to govern.

Can they count on it? The answer is almost certainly yes. The DUP were among the most enthusiastic supporters of May’s premiership in the last parliament, and senior party sources indicate that it would be “correct” to assume that they would in no circumstances support a minority Labour administration. That, given Corbyn’s well-publicised links with Sinn Fein, is no surprise.

Read more: Election results show a hung parliament with the Conservatives as the largest party

The only way the Conservatives will be able to govern effectively is with DUP support – which will likely take the form of an informal confidence and supply arrangement rather than a formal coalition.

With the abstentionist Sinn Fein on course to win seven seats, the DUP and independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon will be the only Northern Irish MPs sitting in the next parliament. The SDLP, the moderate nationalist party, have almost certainly lost all three of theirs.

What might this mean in practice? This result underlines a truth revealed by the March Stormont election: Northern Ireland, divided by Brexit, is voting along orange-on-green lines, and there is little room left for the middle ground. And that the DUP will be calling the shots – even if the Tories win a majority – augurs very badly indeed for power-sharing talks at Stormont (but well for a Brexit deal that incorporates a fudge on the Irish border).

The closeness of the government to the DUP in the last parliament led to James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland secretary, taking lines that were frankly nakedly partisan on issues such as Troubles legacy prosecutions. This, like the other points of disagreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein, was supposed to have been dealt with by the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements of 2014 and 2015.

Brokenshire’s posturing won him few admirers among the nationalist cohort at Westminster. If Nigel Dodds ends up wielding considerable influence over the next Tory government, he will have fewer still. There is very little trust and very little goodwill left on Sinn Fein’s part towards the UK government, and, indeed, its ability to broker a deal that saves the devolved institutions.

The adversarial arithmetic created by Northern Ireland’s results will likely exhaust it. But both sides win: the DUP will wield the influence they have become accustomed to, and Sinn Fein’s line that the structures created by the Good Friday Agreement are untenable will be further bolstered.  

Patrick Maguire writes about politics and is the 2016 winner of the Anthony Howard Award.

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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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