When the General Election was first called, no-one could have predicted the pivotal role that Northern Ireland's leading party would play in the result. The DUP's unexpected hand in bringing the Tories back into power has catapulted the party into the centre stage of UK politics, and has for the first time exposed them to the full, unforgiving glare of Great Britain.
As someone born and raised in Belfast, the recent flood of attention towards the DUP feels like a threshold moment for Northern Ireland. The DUP have been the country's leading party for many years, but they have never experienced such widespread criticism for their extreme, right-wing politics. Their stance as anti-gay, anti-choice and anti-EU has positioned the DUP as one of the most conservative parties in western Europe and their recent step into the spotlight is a rude awakening for many across the UK.
But as national outrage against the DUP continues to grow, many of us in Northern Ireland are asking - Why has it taken so long?
Minorities in Northern Ireland have suffered for years under the DUP and have faced a long struggle for equal rights. The LGTBQ community in Northern Ireland are the only one in the British Isles without the right to marriage and the DUP have vowed to continue blocking marriage equality as a priority. There have been countless displays of homophobia from DUP members who have labelled gay people as an "abomination" and "abusers", and only two years ago the DUP attempted to legalise LGTBQ discrimination through their 'conscience clause'.
Women have also faced repression under the party. The DUP have defied human rights recommendations by upholding restrictions on reproductive rights, forcing many women to travel to England to have an abortion and criminalising others for doing so in Northern Ireland. So heavy is the law that only weeks ago - on International Women's Day no less - a number of women's homes were raided in Belfast in a police search for abortion pills.
For years Northern Ireland has lagged behind the rest of the UK on human rights issues and for these minorities it has been a long and drawn out struggle. So while Britain's recent outrage toward the DUP is encouraging, it also feels extremely frustrating. In Northern Ireland we could have used your solidarity long before now.
Northern Ireland has always faced general ignorance from the rest of the UK and sparse media coverage in Britain has left many in the dark about the country's biggest issues. For example, many will be unaware of the political crisis Northern Ireland has faced in the last six months, one which has cost over £400 million and left the country without a government since March 2017. A lack of awareness about Northern Ireland has made the recent election results all the more surprising and is a wake up call on the impact that Northern Irish politics can have on everyone in the UK.
The result of the General Election has been a double edged sword for Northern Ireland. The rising influence of the DUP is a truly worrying prospect for all and emphasises the need to transform political thinking in the country. But the increased attention, condemnation and scrutiny towards the DUP has also created a potential for change, something which has long been needed, especially for our forward-thinking young people.
I hope from the current political situation that progress can be made for Northern Ireland. When a collective voice stands against discrimination and intolerance we become much more powerful to creating positive change. I hope you continue to share your outrage at the DUP and condemn their backward politics. It is needed now for everyone in the UK, but especially for Northern Ireland.