Can Theresa Work a Deal with DUP’s Arlene Foster?

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7th June 2017
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19th July 2017

Can Theresa Work a Deal with DUP’s Arlene Foster?



Arlene Foster MLA: (Democratic Unionist Party)

As a social media psychologist and broadcaster working in Northern Ireland all my life, I had a special interest in political psychology across all party political platforms. More intriguing than most was the formation of the DUP with its historical foundations in the ideological beliefs of the late Rev Dr Ian Paisley MP, founder of the Free Presbyterian Church in Ulster. As a ex university academic and researcher, I became deeply interested in the breadth of personalities who became members of the DUP in particular, Arlene Foster.


Free Presbyterian Church and Anglicanism


Here we see Arlene as First Minister second left at an Anglican servie in St Patricks Cathedral Dublin.

The late Martin McGuiness Deputy First Minister on second right.

 The key point to note is that not all members of the Democratic Unionist Parties are members of the Free Presbyterian Church. Arlene like Theresa are both practising Anglicans and regular churchgoers. Their deep faith in God is a core part of their personalities.Their political thought processes would be moderated and evaluated in the context of their christian faith as the norm. Let’s look analytically at the personality traits observed over several years. Arlene a young bright well educated woman born and reared in rural Co Fermanagh grew up destined for the law profession. Having almost lost a family member at the hands of the provisional IRA, this socio-political context and her strong Christian born again beliefs sharpened the female class consciousness and guided her motives to preserve the British cultural identity of which lies her core personality traits. Her main personality characteristics show a high achiever academically, politically astute driven by power to achieve the best possible for all of the Ulster people. Objectively we can see inclusivity in her overall personality set, but the persona is tainted with political paradoxes. The rhetoric is sincere when she wishes a better life for all the people of the province, but this conflicts with her rustication of the nationalist cause and the Irish identity. Her consistent use of rhetoric resonates with her toughmindedness, intelligence and shrewdness. Arlene, in her previous Ministerial role demonstrated boldness together with warmth, two essential ingredients to utilize persuasion and decision making in the international arena. An extrovert with a warm engaging personality, Arlene is self focused, self determined showing more recently signs of tension and anxiety. Her independent thinking is sculptured and influenced carefully by her political advisers but moderated by her Christian beliefs and ultra strong faith. One can sense a moderate concern for a more egalitarian approach to the changing role of women, Protestant, Catholic and others, not only in politics but in the province generally. If this were to be generalized to be inclusive of all Ulster women of both identities, it may have been seen as a bait for Sinn Fein to see her as a co worker with socio cultural empathy. She shows restrain and responsibility together with a well integrated set of personality factors. Shrewd and forthright, Arlene could learn much from being a little more polished with less emphasis on political rhetoric. Over the years Arlene has shown in her personality a strong sense of conscientiousness, dominant, assertive and very competitive. Her legal and logical mind is well integrated with other of her traits, such as empathy and impartiality, ultra conservative and traditional but there is difficulty in seeing how this squares up with the left wing Marxists and the gay community. Her personality motives demonstrate a strong desire for power and status as her Irish counterpart Michelle O’Neill. There is an intensity in her motives in particular the high need for acceptance after the Renewable Heat Initiative scenario, not helped by not making it on the first round count. Her personal warmth among all social classes and charismatic authority in Northern Ireland politics has facilitated the development of her super ego strength, imperative for any senior politician. An Alpha female, Arlene is determined to succeed at any cost and has the ingredients of a leader necessary to work together, but she has to utilize all of her personality traits and motives to engage with SF leader O’Neill in an effective and productive manner. The underlying elements here are more psychological rather than political as seen by the media. She simply cannot afford to lose face at this crucial time in NI Politics and sustain her psychological as well as her political integrity to enact change for the common good.

Power and Influence at No 10

The political tsunami of the past week in British politics have had a major impact on Theresa May. Her personal identity is bound to be under threat from which she has begun attempts to being become politically attached to Arlene Foster, and will be under social influence by Mrs Foster who is no soft touch. Whilst Theresa May will be much more introspective and reflective this weekend, she will be conscious of her inner drives desires and motives which have produced a massive error of judgment and some degree of impulsivity which brought around the snap election. Whilst there has been much negativity about her personal competences recently, we must understand and admire her leadership skills and decision making in dealing with the grotesque and horrific tragedies in Manchester and London of the past two weeks whilst still engaged in electioneering campaigning.

Her stress and emotional coping strategies in action as she bravely takes control of the tragedy whilst campaigning.

She chose the opposite psychological tactics and strategies to Margaret Thatcher to her cost. Margaret Thatcher like Arlene Foster were both alpha women imbued with political prowess power and enormous popularity in areas where it mattered. Both Arlene and Mrs Thatcher had the capacity to reach out to the common people, a skill lacking in Theresa May. Both could reach out and understand the young people of today and had their interests at heart but who chose their advisers very carefully. After her meeting with the Queen, Theresa would have reassured Her Majesty of the assumed and potentially successful political alliance and a fusion of personalities with Arlene Foster, who will have to work intensely together over the coming months. Foster has powerful legal mindset, and will seek the will of the people in wanting Brexit, but she and Theresa will have to make concessions either way before this new alliance is seem to deliver. Arlene is a profound dedicated and tenacious Ulster protestant whose core identity is firmly anchored in her British Identity and a solid union with our political counterparts at Westminster. Not a time for attribution of blame or guilt, but a time spent wisely on reaching a genuine deal with the DUP whom I know so very well as a political psychologist. Theresa will find that Arlene is not a woman who is given to making too many concessions, but there are those domains of life such as gay marriage which touch the raw nerve of the DUP Mrs Foster. Both women in politics have intensive motivational states which currently are at influence over their decision making and which determine their core personality traits.

The basic desires which influence both alpha politicians are under two types, Strong- Intensity desires, and Weak- Intensity desires. Both have strong intense desires to be women of power and social influence They have a high intensity desire to be not only political leaders but the most powerful. Acceptance is the universal desire to be liked and not rejected and criticized by others. Theresa would have experienced this profound sense of non acceptance by many of her MP’s and advisers over past few days, which would have thwarted her self esteem self worth and competence. Acceptance strengthens ones desire to live and be very successful. It’s is Arlene Foster who has the necessary skillset to bolster up Theresa’s self worth and motivation state to make a minority Government really work. Foster has worked closely together for several years with the late Martin McGuiness, a staunch republican nationalist politician and Deputy First Minister, at one time an IRA Commander in Co Londonderry. Whilst at two political extremes, her depth of political strategizing, firm belief in moral reasoning and egalitarianism demonstrated her motive and strong intensity desire for collaboration and idealism. Theresa has what we call a weak desire for acceptance as she is highly self confident like Arlene, both women having the basic optimism to agree on common ground and drive this current minority government through Brexit and further increasing social economic and political stability. Another personality trait both women have in common is Honour.This is the trait associated with doing what is right morally for our society. It’s the desire to behave morally. Satisfaction of this desire produces feelings of loyalty, whereas dissatisfaction brings guilt and shame.

Theresa and Arlene have a sound track record of embracing this personality trait as can be seen in Arlene’s Christian stance on abortion and gay rights in Northern Ireland, and she will use her persuasion with Theresa May to reach some form of agreement. This will be where the political cracks might well appear, as Foster’s ideological stance will be at variance with Cabinet and senor MP’s in the Commons. More salient inner motives are in Theresa Mays highly ambitious desire to be Prime Minister. This is a universal state of self reliance, and we have seen this in recent days in her independence trait and the ramifications it has caused. Independence motivates individuals to make their own decisions. Theresa I feel lost some degree of her individuality soon after moving into No 10, but lacks the tenacity to demonstrate her toughmindedness with the tenacious treats by ISIS. Arlene Foster will be her mentor in the coming days and Theresa May would do well to assimilate many of Arlene’s personality traits to lead this country into stability and economic success. Arlene is a straight talker, doesn’t suffer fools gladly and calls a spade a spade. The problem as I see it is that if Theresa fails to deliver a deal for Ulster in the current political climate, this will be a personal disaster for our Prime Minister. Arlene Foster has many admirable personality traits lacking in Mrs May, who is far too austere and more concerned with reproduction of the power elites, that’s the message seen by British conservative youth who were completely ignored in her campaign. Foster and Corbyn have the self perceived competence to be radiant and glowing in confidence, actively participating with teenagers and understanding their issues and their vision for a brighter future.There were also salient differences in the style of language utilized by all three leaders. The constant archaic rhetoric used by our Prime Minister was out of touch and made little psychological impact on anyone. Get out and about Theresa like Arlene in Ulster politics and really befriend the young and old especially the working classes.

If Theresa can take time to reflect on herself attributes and motives and find the will power and motivation to realign them with Arlene Foster, whilst taking a look at how Corbyn and Foster can win votes, there might be a small chance of a workable alliance with the Democratic Unionists. However, the DUP will never be dictated to by the power elite. When one is drowning in political waters one doesn’t challenge their life saver. Theresa has to muster up the courage and tenacity to eat humble pie and see how the DUP First Minister Arlene Foster overcame the embarrassment of the handling of the renewable Heating Northern Ireland. We are all flawed but have to build on our strengths of motives to work in harmony for the common good of the common people. A time for Theresa to reflect in thought deed and prayer.


Arthur Cassidy Ph.D, C.Psychol, AFBPsS