More than 600,000 people sign online petition to stop Conservatives forming a government with the DUP

Ross McGuinness

More than 600,000 people have signed an online petition to stop the Conservatives forming a government with the DUP.

The petition, on Change.org, was launched by someone under the name ‘Winston Churchill’ and gained hundreds of thousands of signatures within hours.

Prime minister Theresa May has been forced to turn to Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party and its leader, Arlene Foster, after the Tories failed to achieve an overall majority in the House of Commons in Thursday’s general election.

She will try to thrash out a deal with the DUP that will give the Conservatives enough seats to get their legislation through a future parliament.

But the planned agreement has faced a flurry of dissent, even with the Tory party itself, because of the DUP’s staunch views on issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and climate change.

The online petition reads: ‘Theresa May said there will NOT be a coalition of CHAOS.

‘She is now forming a minority government with the DUP. Theresa May should RESIGN. This is a disgusting, desperate attempt to stay in power.’

Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson has spoken to Theresa May about the DUP deal (Picture: PA)

Meanwhile, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said she has received assurances from the prime minister over gay rights should the Tories do a DUP deal.

Ms Davidson, who is gay, tweeted a link to a speech she made in favour of marriage equality, with the message: ‘As a Protestant Unionist about to marry an Irish Catholic, here’s the Amnesty Pride lecture I gave in Belfast.’

Ms Davidson, who got engaged to her partner Jen Wilson last year, later told the BBC: ‘I was fairly straightforward with her (Mrs May) and I told her that there were a number of things that count to me more than the party.

GENERAL ELECTION RESULT 17: MORE POLITICAL ANALYSIS FROM YAHOO UK

‘One of them is country, one of the others is LGBTI rights.

‘I asked for a categoric assurance that if any deal or scoping deal was done with the DUP there would be absolutely no rescission of LGBTI rights in the rest of the UK, in Great Britain, and that we would use any influence that we had to advance LGBTI rights in Northern Ireland

‘It’s an issue very close to my heart and one that I wanted categoric assurances from the prime minister on, and I received (them).’

Northern Ireland is the only part of the British Isles where same-sex marriage remains outlawed.

Mrs Foster and Mrs May sat down together last year (Picture: PA)

The DUP has repeatedly used a controversial Stormont voting mechanism – the petition of concern – to prevent the legalisation of same-sex marriage, despite a majority of politicians there supporting the move at the last vote.

The party has often found itself embroiled in controversy over its stance on gay rights issues.

Former first minister Peter Robinson’s wife Iris, then an MP, described homosexuality as an ‘abomination’, while the MP son of the late Dr Ian Paisley, Ian Paisley Jr, said he felt ‘repulsed’ by homosexual acts.

A party councillor in Ballymena reportedly claimed Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,500 people in the US, was God’s revenge for New Orleans hosting an annual gay pride event.

Former DUP Stormont minister Edwin Poots once hit out at a gay rugby team in Belfast, accusing it of introducing a sporting ‘apartheid’ against heterosexual players.

Mr Poots also ended up in court for upholding a ban on gay men giving blood and, in a separate case, objecting to gay couples adopting. In the former case an appeal judge overturned a finding that he was motivated by bias.

Arlene Foster’s DUP won ten seats in the election (Picture: PA)

In the 2015 general election campaign, DUP health minister Jim Wells resigned amid a controversy about remarks he made about same sex couples.

Defending her party’s stance on gay marriage in a recent interview, leader Arlene Foster insisted those who characterised the DUP as anti-gay were wide of the mark.

‘They are wrong and they need to understand why we take those positions from a faith point of view and why we want to protect the definition of marriage,’ she said.

‘I could not care less what people get up to in terms of their sexuality, that’s not a matter for me, when it becomes a matter for me is when people try to redefine marriage.’

Former Labour press secretary Alastair Campbell said Mrs May’s deal with the DUP jeopardised the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Speaking on the BBC’s Question Time, he said: ‘She is playing fast and loose, on Brexit, on Margaret Thatcher’s greatest achievement the single market and now Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s greatest achievement, which is the peace in Northern Ireland.

‘She is putting that at risk with a sordid, dangerous distasteful deal.

‘We have a situation in the Northern Ireland right now where there has been a political crisis where the government is the mediator with the Irish government between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

‘How can our government be the mediator when the DUP are going to be part of our government?’

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes