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Ulster Unionist Party

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Political parties in Northern Ireland supporting maintenance of the union with the UK. In 1886 Lord Hartington and Joseph Chamberlain formed the Liberal Unionists, allying with the Conservatives and pledging to maintain the Union of Ireland with the rest of the United Kingdom. In 1920, with the division of Ireland, the majority party in Northern Ireland was the Unionist wing of the Conservative Party, now calling itself the Ulster Unionists, under Sir James Craig, who was Prime Minister (1921–40). The party, supported by a Protestant electorate, continued to rule under his successors, until the imposition of direct rule from Westminster in 1972. The increased violence between Nationalists and Unionists after the civil rights campaign of 1968 led to divisions in the party, and in 1969 it split into the Official Ulster Unionist Party and the Protestant Unionist Party. The latter, led by the Revd Ian Paisley, was renamed in 1972 the Ulster Democratic Unionist Party, with policies more extreme than those of the Ulster Unionists (led from 1979 to 1995 by James Molyneaux, from 1995 to 2005 by David Trimble, and from 2005 by Sir Reg Empey).

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