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Dublin: 15 °C Monday 24 June, 2019
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This is the Northern Irish party that will keep Theresa May as Prime Minister

What is the DUP?

General Election 2017 declaration DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds. Source: Niall Carson

AROUND BRITAIN, PEOPLE are frantically Googling who the Democratic Unionist Party are this morning.

The searches were so frantic that the DUP website crashed as the party celebrated taking 10 of Northern Ireland’s 18 seats in Westminster.

Those ten seats are now enough to make the DUP kingmakers, ensuring that Theresa May’s Conservative Party remains in power and May stays in Downing Street.

But who is the party founded by Ian Paisley? And what do they want?

History

Founded in 1971 by Paisley and Desmond Boal, along with other members of the Protestant Unionist Party, the party is further to the right of the North’s other unionist party, the UUP. It has historical ties to many Protestant churches in the North, including the Paisley-founded Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.

Several members of the Ulster Resistance paramilitary group would become prominent members of the DUP over the years, including former leader Peter Robinson. This group collaborated with the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in the 80s.

The party renounced violence and was part of the initial Good Friday Agreement talks, but withdrew in protest at Sinn Féin’s involvement while the IRA still held weapons. They opposed the Agreement referendum, which passed with 71% of the vote.

After arguing for a “fair deal” in the 2003 Assembly elections, they would become the largest party in the North.

Freedom of Assembly

General Election 2017 Party leader Arlene Foster with candidates at the launch of the DUP manifesto at the Old Courthouse in Antrim. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

In the south, we mainly know them as the party opposite and alongside Sinn Féin in the Stormont Assembly. At least, they were until March. The power-sharing Assembly has been vacant since January after a bitter row between the parties over the “cash-for-ash” scandal.

During that scandal, DUP First Minister Arlene Foster ignored repeated calls for her to step aside while an investigation is carried out into the scheme – which could cost taxpayers in the North in the region of £400 million (about €460 million), possibly more.

There are questions over how long Foster, who was the minister with responsibility for the scheme from its inception in 2012 until 2015 – knew the initiative was flawed.

The RHI aimed to encourage businesses (and later individuals) to switch to more environmentally-friendly heating methods. Subsidies paid to companies were not capped and the more heat a business generated, the higher the subsidy it received.

The subsequent election in March saw the DUP take the most seats in the assembly, but their 28 was just one more than Sinn Féin. The parties have yet to come to an agreement on the running of the Assembly since.

In yesterday’s Westminster elections, the party took 10 of 18 seats.

Beliefs

90082350_90082350 Founder of the party, Reverend Ian Paisley.

The DUP at its core is a right-wing, loyalist and unionist party. Their 2017 manifesto highlighted the need to make Northern Ireland more connected in terms of infrastructure and digital supports and called for massive investment in the country.

While being pro-Brexit, Foster has spoken out against a hard Brexit and a hard border.

“No-one wants to see a hard Brexit, and what we want to see is a workable plan to leave the European Union, and that’s what the national vote was about – therefore we need to get on with that.

“However, we need to do it in a way that respects the circumstances of Northern Ireland and, of course, our shared history and geography with the Republic of Ireland.”

Socially, the party is extremely conservative. In 2015, it used the North’s petition of concern system to block the legalisation of gay marriage in the North, despite a majority of members voting in favour.

Foster last year pledged that the party would not support expanding British abortion laws into the North.

“I would not want abortion to be as freely available here as it is in England and don’t support the extension of the 1967 act.”

On climate change, the party has been divided, with East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson calling it a “con”.

Wilson has also said that it is ok to compare Sinn Féin with Isis, that public breastfeeding is “exhibitionism” and appeared to agree with a constituent who suggested Northern Ireland “get the ethnics out”.

What will they want?

Holding the balance of power, the DUP will feel emboldened to make demands of Theresa May, though what they want is unclear.

The party has spoken about the need to a “frictionless” border with Ireland, but early reports suggest that the DUP wants a guarantee that there will be no special status for Northern Ireland in Brexit talks, something Sinn Féin has pushed for.

The party’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds has called the plan “hot air”.

On Twitter, many are asking their Conservative MPs to oppose any deal with the DUP.

The DUP has vowed to oppose Corbyn as long as he is Labour leader.

Last month, Foster hit out at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who she dubbed “abhorrent” for his supposed support of the IRA.

Read: Theresa May reaches deal with DUP and will visit Buckingham Palace to form government

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