Who are the DUP? Everything you need to know about the Democratic Unionist Party

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Kayleigh Dray
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The 2017 General Election left us with a hung parliament – and Theresa May, in a bid to form a minority government, has controversially struck a deal with the divisive Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Speaking after a meeting with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, May said: “What the country needs more than ever is certainty and having secured the largest number of votes and the greatest number of seats in the General Election it is clear that only the Conservative and Unionist party has the legitimacy and ability to provide that certainty by commanding a majority in the House of Commons.

“As we do, we continue to work with our allies in the Democratic Unionist party in particular.

“Our two parties have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years and this gives me the confidence to believe that we will be able to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.”

But who are the DUP? What are their policies? And how will their proposed collaboration with the Conservatives work?

Here’s everything you need to know…

Who are the DUP?

The Democratic Unionist Party is the largest unionist political party in Northern Ireland, the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the fifth largest party in Westminster with 10 seats.

Who are the ‘need-to-know’ figures of the DUP?

Founded by Ian Paisley in 1971, the party’s current leader is Arlene Foster. Nigel Dodds serves as her deputy.

What are their political leanings?

According to the DUP, they are “right wing in the sense of being strong on the constitution” but “to the left on social policy”.

What are the key points of their 2017 manifesto?

The DUP’s manifesto for the Westminster election includes, unsurprisingly, a large push on the rights of Northern Ireland in the UK political system.

They also intend to:

  • Support continued increases in the National Living Wage
  • Prioritise spending on our National Health Service
  • Raise standards in education for everyone
  • Invest in infrastructure
  • Resist any assault on universal benefits
  • Support the continuation of the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent
  • Support proposals to increase the personal tax allowance
  • Introduce a comprehensive broadband plan to increase the number of people that have access to high-speed web connections
  • Push telecoms companies to increase 4G signals for smartphones and also invest in 5G technology 

What’s the DUP’s stance on Brexit?

The DUP does not support May’s plans for a ‘hard Brexit’ and it seems glaringly apparent that some compromises will have to be made if this union is to prove successful.

Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, has previously said: “No-one wants to see a ‘hard’ Brexit, 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 specific circumstances of Northern Ireland, and, of course, our shared history and geography with the Republic of Ireland. No-one wants to see a hard border, Sinn Fein talk about it a lot, but nobody wants a hard border.

“Certainly that’s not what the Dublin government want to see, not what the London government wants to see and not what Stormont want to see.”

Why are people so concerned about the DUP?

The DUP regularly make headlines with their controversial policies:

  • They are historically the biggest pro-forced pregnancy party in the UK. And, in 2016, Foster vowed to block any reforms to Northern Ireland’s strict abortion laws, saying: “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.”
  • Staunchly anti-LGBTQ rights, the party have blocked gay marriage in Northern Ireland. Even more worryingly, members have also described LGBT people as an “abomination” on numerous occasions, called for a lifetime ban on sexually active gay men giving blood, and claimed that children should not be brought up by homosexual couples, as they are “far more likely to be abused or neglected”.
  • In 2011, they famously called for the return of the death penalty – and recently made it abundantly clear that they wish the issue to be considered again.

It is also worth noting that the DUP appointed Sammy Wilson, a vehement climate change denier, as the Northern Ireland environment minister – and defended him from critics when they began calling for his resignation.

The party also boasts a number of creationists — those who believe the universe and all organisms were “created by a supernatural being less than 10,000 years ago” — as senior leaders. In fact, some 40% of DUP party members believe creationism should be taught in schools as well as, or instead of, mainstream science.

Images: Rex Features