It is 20 years since Northern Ireland’s leaders signed the Good Friday Agreement. After decades of conflict, the deal laid out how the country would be governed and has proved fragile over the last two decades.
That fragility has been exacerbated over the past 10 months, ever since UK prime minister Theresa May signed a “supply and confidence” pact with Northern Ireland’s pro-Brexit, socially conservative, climate science denying, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to prop up her Conservative government.
The DUP ’s presence as a governing partner threatens the Good Friday Agreement, as the party has regularly criticised the deal’s requirement that both of Northern Ireland’s main parties rule in coalition.
The DUP says this effectively gives their opponents Sinn Fein a veto over major political decisions. Northern Ireland has been without an executive since January 2017 when Sinn Fein resigned from government in protest over the handling of a bungled biomass energy scheme.
The DUP’s new found power also amplifies the influence of a network of Brexiteer climate science deniers with ties to the party. Together, this network is pushing to roll back the UK’s climate commitments through a ‘hard’ Brexit, while also threatening Northern Ireland’s fragile governing arrangements.
This interactive map outlines the connections (press next to move to the next section):
Sammy WIlson: The DUP Brexit Spokesperson who says Climate Change is a ‘Gigantic Con’
Senior DUP MP for Antrim Sammy Wilson is a vocal critic of the good Friday Agreement. Wilson is also a well-known climate science denier and the DUP’s spokesperson for Brexit.
Wilson believes human caused climate change is a “gigantic con” and an “hysterical semi-religion”, and denies that there is a scientific consensus on the causes of climate change.
As recently as December 2017, Wilson attacked what he describes as the UK’s “foolish global warming policy” in the UK parliament.
He has organised numerous climate science denial events in Westminster. These are often attended by MPs with links to the Brexiteer climate science denial lobbying network operating out of offices at 55 Tufton Street, which DeSmog UK has previously mapped.
Cash-for-Brexit and Climate Science Denial Campaigners at 55 Tufton Street
One of the MPs that regularly attended the events organised by Wilson was Peter Lilley, former Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden.
Lilley sits on the Board of Trustees of the UK’s main climate science denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). He also has financial interests in a number of fossil fuel companies.
Lilley was named as one of the MP’s offering to sell his Brexit connections to a Chinese business in a Channel 4 documentary. He sits on a secretive advisory committee to Liam Fox’s International Trade Department, whose membership was recently revealed by DeSmog UK.
Another MP with close ties to Sammy Wilson and the climate science denial network is former environment secretary, Owen Paterson.
Wilson spoke out in support of Paterson’s criticism of the Good Friday Agreement, which the Tory MP for North Shropshire said had “outlived its use”.
Paterson’s brother-in-law is Matt Ridley, a hereditary peer and advisor to the climate science denial campaign group, the GWPF. Paterson’s annual lecture to the GWPF in 2014 – in which he called for the UK to scrap the Climate Change Act – was actually written by Ridley, it later emerged.
Paterson is also a member of a number of other organisations that were at some stage based out of the pro-Brexit, anti-climate action hub at 55 Tufton Street, including The European Foundation, UK2020, and Vote Leave.
Cambridge Analytica, Election Tampering, and Climate Science Denying Brexit Donors
The DUP has ties to the controversial political consultancy Cambridge Analytica , which has been accused of illegally using Facebook data to swing the Brexit referendum.
As originally identified by independent investigative journalists at OpenDemocracy, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson is at the heart of things.
He called for the Good Friday Agreement to be scrapped in 2001, along with former colleague and Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) MP David Burnside. Donaldson resigned from the UUP and joined the DUP over the issue, thus “altering significantly the anti-[Good Friday] agreement unionist balance” in Northern Ireland’s politics, the Irish Times said.
Burnside has regularly called for the UUP and DUP to merge. When Burnside left Northern Ireland’s parliament, he set up his own PR company. His PR company did work for major Tory Donor Vincent Tchenguiz. Tchenguiz was the major shareholder of Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Group.
Cambridge Analytica also has strong ties through donors to pro-Brexit campaign groups run by notable climate science deniers, as DeSmog UK has previously mapped.
The unofficial pro-Brexit group Leave EU was principally funded by businessman Arron Banks. He is a climate policy skeptic, having once tweeted: “Global climate change represents the biggest transfer of wealth from poor to rich ever via inflated energy costs”.
Banks was also UKIP’s major donor, with the party’s former leader and posterboy Nigel Farage being another notable climate science denier. Farage once told an audience at a voter engagement event that he had “no idea” whether he believed in climate change. “Be careful of the scientific consensus,” he said.
Farage and Banks are also tied to DUP MP and climate science denier Sammy Wilson, through all of their involvement in another Brexit campaign group, Grassroots Out.
‘Dark Money’ and Hard Brexit Climate Science Deniers in Westminster
The DUP has been embroiled in a scandal since the EU referendum around a secretive £435,000 donation to help the party campaign for Brexit. This donation ultimately leads back to a number of MPs lobbying against climate action and for a hard Brexit.
The party initially refused to disclose where the money came from, with the only clue being a small disclosure on an advert that ran in the London Metro that had been paid for by DUP MP Donaldson.
Eventually the party revealed the money was filtered through a front organisation called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC).
The CRC has also made donations to Tory MP Steve Baker for his work for the European Research Group (ERG), a pro-Brexit lobby group within Westminster, OpenDemocracy revealed.
A number of climate science denying MPs are members of the ERG, including Owen Paterson.
Perhaps the most prominent face of the ERG is Tory backbench favourite, Jacob Rees-Mogg.
The North-East Somerset MP has claimed that “climate alarmism” is responsible for high energy prices, and that it was unrealistic for scientists to project future climate changes as meteorologists struggle to correctly predict the weather. He has been referred to the parliamentary standards watchdog for failing to disclose his energy company interests.
Two MPs that voted against the UK’s Climate Change Act are also members: Christopher Chope and Philip Davies.
Tory Government and Anti-Climate Policy Free Trade Ideologues
The DUP-Tory pact also ties the party to pro-Brexit free market campaign groups based in Westminster that have criticised the Good Friday Agreement.
Two prominent members of the Theresa May’s cabinet, international trade secretary Liam Fox and foreign secretary Boris Johnson, recently helped launched the IFT (formerly the Institute for Free Trade).
Email correspondence released through a Freedom of Information request reveals a very cosy relationship between the two secretaries of state and the IFT’s director, Daniel Hannan.
Hannan previously tweeted that “the Good Friday Agreement has failed”. Hannan also has strong ties to the UK’s Brexiteer climate science denial lobbying network.
The IFT is based out of 57 Tufton St, next door to the 55 Tufton St offices that house many of the organisations pushing for deregulation and against climate action.
Hannan also hosted a panel discussing climate policy at an event in Brussels with GWPF advisor Matt Ridley, and Myron Ebell — an infamous US climate science denier and former advisor to Donald Trump’s administration.
To find out more about many of these actors’ (mis)deeds, see their full profiles in DeSmog UK’s Disinformation Database.
Updated 09/4/2018: It was incorrectly stated that it was 20 years “to the day” since the Good Friday Agreement was signed. The agreement was signed on 10 April 1998. The article has been updated to reflect this.