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  • Writer's pictureFriends of Sinn Féin USA


Former Leaders of the DUP Peter Robinson and Rev. Ian Paisley

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is the largest unionist party in the North of Ireland. They support the continued partition of Ireland and opposed any movement towards Irish Unity.

Founded in 1971 by the Rev. Ian Paisley it is a coalition of hard-line unionists and Free Presbyterian fundamentalists.

It's brand of oppositional politics, encapsulated in the slogan “Ulster Says No” has seen the party grow from the fringe to the dominant voice of unionism. The party opposed power-sharing between unionists and nationalists in the 1970s, opposed any roll of Dublin in the North in the Anglo Irish Agreement in the 1980s, and swore to “Smash Sinn Féin”.

The party was involved in the establishment of “Ulster Resistance” a paramilitary group that was subsequently involved in the importation of weapons from apartheid-era South African to unionist paramilitaries.

The Rev. Ian Paisley walked out of the talks, chaired by Senator George Mitchel, which would eventually lead to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. They campaigned against the agreement and continue to oppose it.

In 2005 the DUP became the largest unionist party and by 2007 the Rev. Ian Paisley agreed to share power with Martin McGuinness as joint leaders in government . The two formed a strong and respectful partnership.

In 2008 amid accusations from within the DUP, that Rev. Ian Paisley was too friendly with Martin McGuinness, he was replaced as leader by Peter Robinson. In 2016 Peter Robinson stood down and was replaced by Arlene Foster.

Within a year the power-sharing government collapsed when Martin McGuinness resigned in protest at Arlene Foster's role in a public-funded heating project scandal, the continued opposition to equal rights measures including those of Irish speakers, and continued refusal to honor agreements.

The DUP was the only major party in the North to support Brexit, while a majority of citizens voted to remain in the EU. The DUP signed a deal to keep the Tory party in government in London and called for the hardest possible version of Brexit.

Since 2017 and in every subsequent election political unionism has lost its absolute majority. While the DUP is the largest unionist party, unionism is a minority in the parliament and government in the North. Sinn Féin is now on track to become the largest party in the North.

The demographic changes, the loss of the unionist majority, the development of a broad-based progressive society, the debate and potential of Irish unity, and Brexit have all left the DUP scrambling in chaos.

This has manifested itself in recent DUP internal battles that resulted in three different leaders being in place over 6 weeks. The latest leader is Jeffrey Donaldson MP.

The politics of opposition, exclusion, and inequality has run out of road. Ulster Says No is not enough.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald (Pictured) last week said.

“We don’t seek to humiliate or profit from the dysfunction within the DUP. But we will stand firm on basic rights and entitlements. These are not up for discussion or negotiation. We are well past that time.

Now is the time for implementation. Now is the time for respect and equality.

Now is the time for genuine and real partnership.”

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