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Democratic Unionist Party

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Northern Ireland

Formed in 1971 by Ian Paisley and Desmond Boal, the party is committed to Northern Ireland remaining part of the UK. The party stood firmly against Protestants sharing power with the Catholic minority in the 1970s, and is opposed to British membership of the European Community (European integration). A more radical proponent of Protestant interests than the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), it has consistently opposed talking to ministers from the Irish Republic, and it rejected the Downing Street Declaration of 1993. From the 1970s to the 1990s the DUP tended to win three seats in Westminster elections, with about 20 per cent of the Northern Ireland vote in British general elections.

The DUP's popularity was boosted by its rejection of the Good Friday Agreements, whereby it capitalized on Protestant fears of compromise. It trebled its representation in Westminster to nine MPs in 2006. In the Northern Ireland elections of 2003 it also eclipsed the UUP, becoming the strongest party with 30 seats. Within Northern Ireland, the party continued its hostile rhetoric against Sinn Féin, but it found itself in a difficult position after the IRA had destroyed its weapons. Paisley engaged in talks with Sinn Féin which led to the St Andrews Agreement. On the basis of this, its representation in the Assembly increased even further after the 2007 elections, with 36 seats. After protracted negotiations, the DUP joined Sinn Féin in a historic government of reconciliation as the majority party. official website of the DUP.

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