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Democratic Unionist Party

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Template:Infobox British Political Party

The Democratic Unionist Party is a hardline Unionist party in Northern Ireland led by Ian Paisley. It is the largest unionist party.

Established in the 1970s by Ian Paisley and Desmond Boal, it evolved from the Protestant Unionist Party. It has no Roman Catholic members, which makes it unique in the United Kingdom. It has won seats at local council, province, national and European level; Paisley was elected one of Northern Ireland's three European Parliament members (MEPs) at the first elections in 1979 and retained that seat in every European election until 2004, receiving the highest percentage popular vote of any Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland or Great Britain MEP and one of the highest anywhere in Europe. In 2004 Paisley was replaced as the DUP MEP by Jim Allister.

The DUP also holds seats in the British House of Commons and has been elected to each of the Northern Ireland conventions and assemblies set up since the party's creation. It has long been the major rival to the other major unionist party, the Ulster Unionist Party (known for a time in the 1970s and 1980s as the Official Unionist Party (OUP) to distinguish it from the then multitude of other unionist partes, some set up by deposed former leaders). The party has a history of right-wing activism, and openly supported Ian Smith and the racist Rhodesian regime.

The DUP were originally involved in the negotiations under former United States Senator George J. Mitchell that led to the Belfast Agreement (also known as the Good Friday Agreement on account of the day on which it was signed.) During the negotiations, they described the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition as "feckless women" with "limited intellect". The party withdrew in protest when Sinn Féin, a republican party with ties to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), was allowed to participate after the IRA ceasefire. The DUP opposed the Agreement in the referendum that followed its signing, and which saw the Agreement approved reasonably comfortably nonetheless.

The DUP fought the resulting election to the Northern Ireland Assembly and took two seats in the multi-party power-sharing executive but while serving as ministers refused to sit in at meetings of the Executive Committee (cabinet) in protest at Sinn Fein's participation. The Executive ultimately was suspended over unionist unhappiness on the slow nature of IRA disarmament.

In the delayed Northern Ireland Assembly election of 2003 the DUP became the largest political party with 30 seats. In 2004 it became the largest Northern Ireland party in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, with the defection of Jeffrey Donaldson. On December 12, 2004, English MP Andrew Hunter took the DUP whip, giving the party 7 seats, in comparison to the UUP's 5, Sinn Fein's 4, and the SDLP's 3.

In the 2005 general election the party reinforced its position as the largest unionist party, winning nine seats, making it the fourth largest party in the British House of Commons behind Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

In August 1997, David Ervine, leader of the Progressive Unionist Party (which is linked to the UVF), maintained in an interview that the DUP had tried to persuade unionist paramilitaries not to call ceasefires in 1994. The DUP denied this. While the DUP refuse to engage with Sinn Féin on the basis that they are associated with the IRA, it has never had a problem in dealing with any of the small loyalist parties associated with unionist paramilitaries, often helping elect their representatives to public office.


External link

Template:British political partiesde:Democratic Unionist Party fr:Parti unioniste démocrate sv:Democratic Unionist Party

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