Democratic Unionist Party

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This article is about the political party in Northern Ireland. For other uses, see Democratic Unionist Party (disambiguation).
Democratic Unionist Party
Abbreviation DUP
Leader Arlene Foster MLA
Chairman Lord Morrow MLA
Deputy Leader / Westminster Leader Nigel Dodds MP
Founded 30 September 1971
Preceded by Protestant Unionist Party
Headquarters 91 Dundela Avenue
Belfast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Ideology National conservatism[1]
Social conservatism[2]
British unionism
British nationalism[3]
Political position Right-wing[5][6]
European affiliation None
European Parliament group Non-Inscrits
Colours Red, White and Blue
House of Commons
(NI Seats)
8 / 18
House of Lords
3 / 802
European Parliament
(NI seats)
1 / 3
NI Assembly
38 / 108
NI Local Councils
125 / 462
Official website

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is the largest unionist political party in Northern Ireland. Founded by Ian Paisley and now led by Arlene Foster, it is the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the joint fourth-largest party in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.

The DUP has historically strong links to Protestant churches, particularly the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster (the church Paisley founded) and has traditionally been regarded as the more Ulster loyalist of the two large unionist parties. However, this influence has reduced somewhat under the Robinson leadership in an attempt to reach out to non-Protestants, particularly socially conservative Catholics.[7][8]

Following on from the St Andrews Agreement in October 2006, the DUP agreed with the Irish republican party Sinn Féin to enter into power-sharing devolved government in Northern Ireland. In the aftermath of the agreement there were reports of divisions within the DUP. Many of its leading members, including Members of Parliament (MPs) Nigel Dodds, David Simpson and Gregory Campbell, were claimed to be in opposition to Paisley. All the party's MPs fully signed up to the manifesto for the 2007 Assembly elections, supporting power-sharing in principle. An overwhelming majority of the party executive voted in favour of restoring devolution in a meeting in March 2007;[9] however, the DUP's sole Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Jim Allister,[10] and seven DUP councillors[11] later resigned from the party in opposition to its plans to share power with Sinn Féin. They founded the Traditional Unionist Voice in December 2007.[12]

The DUP is the largest party in Northern Ireland, holding eight seats at Westminster and 38 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly. It has one seat in the European Parliament, where its MEP, Diane Dodds, sits as a Non-Inscrit.

Although the party is primarily active in Northern Ireland politics, during 2004-5 it had one representative from the English constituency of Basingstoke, as a result of a defection to the party.


Early years and successes[edit]

The party was established in 1971 by Ian Paisley and Desmond Boal and other members of the Protestant Unionist Party. Since its foundation it has won seats at local council, Northern Ireland, UK and European level. It won eight seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly of 1973-1974, where it opposed the formation of a power-sharing executive made up of unionists and Irish nationalists following the Sunningdale Agreement. The DUP were more Ulster loyalist than the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). and its establishment arguably stemmed from insecurities of the Ulster Protestant working class.[13] Paisley was elected one of Northern Ireland's three European Parliament members at the first elections in 1979 and retained that seat in every European election until 2004. In 2004 Paisley was replaced as the DUP MEP by Jim Allister, who resigned from the party in 2007 while retaining his seat.[10]

The DUP also holds seats in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, 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 principal rival to the other major unionist party, the UUP (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 parties, some set up by deposed former leaders). The DUP's main opponent is Sinn Féin and its main rival for votes is the Ulster Unionist Party.



The DUP was originally involved in the negotiations under former United States Senator George J. Mitchell that led to the Good Friday Agreement, but withdrew in protest when Sinn Féin, an Irish republican party with links to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), was allowed to participate while the IRA retained its weapons. The DUP opposed the Agreement in the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement referendum, in which the Agreement was approved with 71.1% of the electorate in favour.

The opposition was based on a number of reasons, including:

The Good Friday Agreement relied on the support of a majority of unionists and a majority of nationalists in order for it to operate.[citation needed] During the 2003 Assembly Election, the DUP argued for a "fair deal" that could command the support of both unionists and nationalists. After the results of this election the DUP argued that support was no longer present within unionism for the Good Friday Agreement. They then went on to publish their proposals for devolution in Ireland entitled Devolution Now.[14]

These proposals have been refined and re-stated in further policy documents including Moving on[15] and Facing Reality.[16] The DUP holds the view that any party which is linked to a terrorist organisation should not be eligible to hold Government office.[citation needed]

The DUP fought the resulting election to the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly and took two seats in the multi-party power-sharing executive. While serving as ministers, they refused to sit in at meetings of the Executive Committee in protest at Sinn Féin's participation.[citation needed] The Executive ultimately collapsed over an alleged IRA espionage ring at Stormont (see Stormontgate).

In the delayed Northern Ireland Assembly election of 2003, the DUP became the largest political party in the region, with 30 seats. In 2004, it became the largest Northern Ireland party at Westminster, with the defection of former UUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson. On 12 December 2004, English MP Andrew Hunter took the DUP whip, giving the party seven seats, in comparison to the UUP's five, Sinn Féin's four, and the Social Democratic and Labour Party's (SDLP) three.


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 terms of seats in the British House of Commons behind Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. In terms of votes, the DUP was the fourth largest party on the island of Ireland.

At the local government election of 2005, the DUP also emerged as the largest party at local government level with 182 councillors across Northern Ireland's 26 district councils.[17] The DUP has a majority of the members on both Castlereagh Borough Council, which has long been a DUP stronghold and is home to party leader Peter Robinson, also in Ballymena Borough Council, home to the party's founder Ian Paisley, and finally Ards Borough Council. As well as outright control on these councils, the DUP is also the largest party in eight of the other councils. These are Antrim Borough Council, Ballymoney Borough Council, Banbridge District Council, Belfast City Council, Carrickfergus Borough Council, Coleraine Borough Council, Craigavon Borough Council and Newtownabbey Borough Council

On 11 April 2006, it was announced that three DUP members were to be elevated to the House of Lords: Maurice Morrow, Wallace Browne, the former Lord Mayor of Belfast, and Eileen Paisley, a vice-president of the DUP and wife of DUP Leader Ian Paisley. None, however, sit as DUP peers.

On 27 October 2006, the DUP issued a four-page letter in the Belfast Telegraph newspaper asking "Are the terms of Saint Andrew's a basis of moving forward to devolution?", with responses to be received to its party headquarters by 8 November. It was part of the party's policy of consultation with its electorate before entering a power-sharing government.[citation needed]

On 24 November 2006, Ian Paisley refused to nominate himself as First Minister of Northern Ireland designate. There was confusion between all parties whether he actually said that if Sinn Féin supported policing and the rule of law that he would nominate himself on 28 March 2007 after the Assembly elections on 7 March 2007. The Assembly meeting was brought to an abrupt end when the building had to be evacuated because of a security breach. Paisley later released a statement through the press office stating that he did in fact imply that if Sinn Féin supported policing and the rule of law, he would go into a power-sharing government with them. This was following a statement issued by 12 DUP MLAs stating that what Ian Paisley had said in the chamber could not be interpreted as a nomination.[18]

In February 2007, the DUP suggested that it would begin to impose fines up to £20,000 on members disobeying the party whip on crucial votes.[19]

On 24 March 2007 the DUP party executive overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution put to them by the party officers which did not agree to an establishment of devolution and an executive in Northern Ireland by the Government's deadline of 26 March, but did agree to setting up an executive on 8 May 2007.[9]

On 27 March 2007, the party's sole Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Jim Allister, resigned from the party, in opposition to the decision to enter a power-sharing government with Sinn Féin. He retained his seat as an independent MEP as leader of his new hard-line anti-St Andrews Agreement splinter group that he formed with other disaffected members who had left the DUP over the issue, Traditional Unionist Voice, a seat which he retained until Diane Dodds won the seat back for the DUP in 2009. MP Gregory Campbell warned on 6 April 2007 that his party would be watching to see if benefits flow from its agreement to share power with Sinn Féin.[20]

Robinson leadership[edit]

On 31 May 2008, the party's central Executive Committee met at the offices of Castlereagh Borough Council where Ian Paisley formally stepped down as party leader and Peter Robinson was ratified as the new leader, with Nigel Dodds as his deputy.

On 11 June 2008 the party supported the government's proposal to detain terror suspects for up to 42 days, leading to The Independent dubbing all of the party's nine MPs as part of "Brown's dirty dozen".[21] The Times reported that the party had been given "sweeteners for Northern Ireland" and "a peerage for the Rev Ian Paisley", amongst other offers, to secure Gordon Brown's bill.[22]

Members of the DUP were lambasted by the press and voters, after MPs' expenses reports were leaked to the media. Several newspapers referred to the "Swish Family Robinson" after Peter Robinson, and his wife Iris, claimed £571,939.41 in expenses with a further £150,000 being paid to family members.[23] Further embarrassment was caused to the party when its deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, had the highest expenses claims of any Northern Ireland MP, ranking 13th highest out of all UK MPs.[24] Details of all MPs' expenses claims since 2004 were published in July 2009 under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

In January 2010, Peter Robinson was at the centre of a high-profile scandal relating to his 60-year-old MP/MLA wife Iris Robinson's infidelity with a 19-year-old man, and alleged serious financial irregularities associated with the scandal.[25][26]

Northern Ireland election seats 1997-2015.svg

In the 2010 General Election, the party suffered a major upset when its leader, Peter Robinson, lost his Belfast East seat to Naomi Long of the APNI on a swing of 22.9%. However, the party maintained its position elsewhere, fighting off a challenge from the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force in Antrim South and Strangford and from Jim Allister's Traditional Unionist Voice in Antrim North.

In the 2015 General Election, when the result was expected to be a hung parliament, the issue of DUP and the UK Independence Party forming a coalition government with the UK Conservative Party was considered by Nigel Farage (leader of UKIP).[27][28] The then Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, warned against this "Blukip" coalition, with a spoof website highlighting imagined policies from this coalition – such as reinstating the death penalty, scrapping all benefits for under 25s and charging for hospital visits.[29] Additionally, issues were raised about the continued existence of the BBC (as the DUP, UKIP and Conservatives had made a number of statements criticising the institution)[30] and support for LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.[31][32] However, in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live deputy leader of the DUP Nigel Dodds told BBC Newsline in 2015 that, despite opposition to same-sex marriage, the DUP was "against discrimination based on religion ... or sexual orientation".[32] Additionally, David Cameron said he "totally disagreed" with the DUP on the issue of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights, claiming that "nothing I will do" would go against the principle of "the values that I have", including "equality for gay and lesbian people".[33]

On 10 September 2015, Peter Robinson stepped aside as First Minister and other DUP ministers, with the exception of Arlene Foster, resigned their portfolios.[34]

Party leadership[edit]

Northern Ireland Executive Ministers[edit]

Owing to the current negotiations in the Northern Ireland Executive, there are currently no ministers until a Programme for Government is approved, with the exception of the First Minister. The following information is correct for the Northern Ireland Executive prior to the Assembly elections in May 2016.

Portfolio Name
First Minister Arlene Foster MLA
Junior Minister (nominated by First Minister) Emma Pengelly MLA
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Jonathan Bell MLA
Health, Social Services & Public Safety Simon Hamilton MLA
Finance and Personnel Mervyn Storey MLA
Social Development Lord Morrow MLA
Regional Development Michelle McIlveen MLA


Party spokespersons – Westminster[edit]

As listed by the party.[36]

Responsibility Spokesperson
International Development and Cabinet Office Gregory Campbell MP MLA
Reform and Constitutional issues and Foreign Affairs Nigel Dodds MP
Defence and business in the House of Commons Jeffrey Donaldson MP
Culture Media & Sport, Communities & Local Government and Energy & Climate Change Ian Paisley Jr MP
Justice, Home Affairs and Human Rights. Gavin Robinson MP
Health, Transport and Equality Jim Shannon MP
Business Innovation & Skills and Environment, Food & Rural Affairs David Simpson MP
Education, Treasury and the Department of Work & Pensions. Sammy Wilson MP

Party spokespersons – Assembly[edit]

Responsibility Spokesperson
Party Leader Peter Robinson MLA[37]
Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds MP MLA[38]
Agriculture Paul Frew MLA[39]
Children and Young People, Education Michelle McIlveen MLA[40]
Culture, Arts and Leisure Gregory Campbell MLA MP[41]
Employment and Learning Thomas Buchanan MLA
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Peter Weir MLA
Environment Alastair Ross MLA
Health Jim Wells MLA
Justice, Press Officer Ian Paisley, Jr MP
Social Development Simon Hamilton MLA


Parliament of the United Kingdom[edit]

Members of the House of Commons as of May 2015:

Members of the House of Lords:

Northern Ireland Assembly[edit]

Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly elected in May 2016:

European Parliament[edit]

Members elected in 2014


Current leader Arlene Foster

Founder Ian Paisley led the party from its foundation in 1971 onwards, and retired as leader of the party in spring 2008.

Paisley was replaced by former deputy leader Peter Robinson on 31 May 2008, who in turn was replaced by Arlene Foster on 17 December 2015.

Party leader[edit]

The following are the terms of office as party leader and as First Minister of Northern Ireland:

Leader Period Constituency Years as First Minister
Ian Paisley 1971–2008 MP for Bannside (1970–72)
MP for North Antrim (1970–2010)
MEP for Northern Ireland (1979–2004)
MLA for North Antrim (1998–2011)
(Executive of the 3rd Assembly)
Peter Robinson 2008–2015 MP for Belfast East (1979–2010)
MLA for Belfast East (1998–present)
(Executive of the 3rd and 4th Assembly)
Arlene Foster 2015–present MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (2003–present) 2016-present
(Executive of the 4th Assembly)

Deputy leader[edit]

Name Period Constituency
William Beattie 1971–1980 MP for South Antrim (1970–72)
Peter Robinson 1980–2008 MP for Belfast East (1979–2010)
MLA for Belfast East (1998–present)
Nigel Dodds 2008–present MLA for Belfast North (1998–2010)
MP for Belfast North (2001–present)

Westminister leader[edit]

Name Period Constituency
Ian Paisley 1974–2010 North Antrim
Nigel Dodds 2010–present Belfast North

General election results[edit]

Election House of Commons Share of votes Seats +/-
1974 (Feb) 46th 5.7%
1 / 12
Increase 1
1974 (Oct) 47th 5.8%
1 / 12
1979 48th 10.2%
3 / 12
Increase 2
1983 49th 19.9%
3 / 17
1987 50th 11.7%
3 / 17
1992 51st 13.1%
3 / 17
1997 52nd 13.6%
2 / 18
Decrease 1
2001 53rd 22.5%
5 / 18
Increase 3
2005 54th 33.7%
9 / 18
Increase 4
2010 55th 25.0%
8 / 18
Decrease 1
2015 56th 25.7%
8 / 18

Northern Ireland Assembly election results[edit]

Election Northern Ireland Assembly Total Votes Share of votes Seats +/-
1973 1973 Assembly 78,228 10.8%
8 / 78
Increase 8
1975 Constitutional Convention 97,073 14.8%
12 / 78
Increase 4
1982 1982 Assembly 145,528 23.0%
21 / 78
Increase 9
1996 Forum 141,413 18.8%
24 / 110
Increase 24
1998 1st Assembly 145,917 18.5%
20 / 108
Decrease 4
2003 2nd Assembly 177,944 25.7%
30 / 108
Increase 10
2007 3rd Assembly 207,721 30.1%
36 / 108
Increase 6
2011 4th Assembly 198,436 30.0%
38 / 108
Increase 2
2016 5th Assembly 202,567 29.2%
38 / 108

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nordsieck, Wolfram. "Parties and Elections in Europe". Retrieved 11 July 2015. 
  2. ^ Ruth Marcus, "Gender aside, the fall of Irish politician Iris Robinson is the same old sex scandal", Washington Post, 14 January 2010
  3. ^ "Unionist bid to be UK 'kingmakers' unsettles some in Northern Ireland". Reuters. Retrieved 11 July 2015. 
  4. ^ Taggart, Paul; Szczerbiak, Aleks. "The Party Politics of Euroscepticism in EU Member and Candidate States" (PDF). SEI Working Paper 51. Sussex European Institute: 11. 
  5. ^ Kimberly Cowell-Meyers, "Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Encyclopaedia Britannica
  6. ^ Ian Paisley, Limping Towards the Sunrise
  7. ^ "I may be a devout Catholic but I will vote for DUP, says ex-SDLP mayor". 
  8. ^ "Priest: Catholics support the DUP". Impartial Reporter. 
  9. ^ a b "DUP 'would share power in May'". BBC News Online (BBC). 24 March 2007. Retrieved 7 April 2007. 
  10. ^ a b "Allister quits power-sharing DUP". BBC News Online (BBC). 27 March 2007. Retrieved 27 March 2007. 
  11. ^ "Seventh councillor leaves the DUP". BBC News Online (BBC). 5 April 2007. Retrieved 7 April 2007. 
  12. ^ "New unionist group to be launched". BBC News. 
  13. ^ Beyond the Sectarian Divide: the Social Bases and Political Consequences of Nationalist and Unionist Party Competition in Ireland by Geoffrey Evans and Mary Duffy. In British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 27, No. 1. (Jan. 1997), p.58
  14. ^ Dr Martin Melaugh. "CAIN: Issues: Politics: Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) (2004) Devolution Now: The DUP's Concept for Devolution, 5 February 2004". Retrieved 18 June 2010. 
  15. ^ Moving On, Democratic Unionist Party Archived 13 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ Facing Reality, Democratic Unionist Party Archived 13 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ "2005 Local Government Election Results". Northern Ireland Elections. ARK. 
  18. ^ "Paisley 'will accept nomination'". BBC News. 
  19. ^ Sunday Times, page 1.10, 4 February 2007
  20. ^ "Agreement must bring benefits, Congressmen are told". Noel McAdam (Belfast Telegraph). 6 April 2007. Retrieved 6 April 2007. 
  21. ^ "Twelve good folk and true... or Brown's dirty dozen?". The Independent (London). 15 June 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  22. ^ Sharrock, David; Coates, Sam (12 June 2008). "42day detention bribes and concessions that got DUP on side". The Times (London). Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  23. ^ Lucy Ballinger (6 April 2009). "MP couple taking more than £570,000 from taxpayer in salaries and expenses". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 18 June 2010. 
  24. ^ "Dodds' expenses bill NI's highest". BBC News. 
  25. ^ O'Doherty, Malachi (8 January 2010). "The real Robinson affair". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 1 April 2010. 
  26. ^ "Tatchell: Robinson is 'two-faced hypocrite'". Morning Star. 8 January 2010. Retrieved 18 June 2010. 
  27. ^ Justice, Adam (18 March 2015). "General Election 2015: Ukip could form coalition with Tories and DUP". International Business Times. Retrieved 29 March 2016. 
  28. ^ Wilkinson, Michael (5 May 2015). "Conservative Ukip coalition: what have the parties said". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 March 2016. 
  29. ^ Cromie, Claire (16 April 2015). "Nick Clegg warns of rightwing 'Blukip' alliance of DUP, Ukip and the Conservatives". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 29 March 2016. 
  30. ^ Stone, Jon (28 April 2015). "Tory coalition with DUP and Ukip could spell the end of the BBC as we know it". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 29 March 2016. 
  31. ^ Dunne, Ciara (16 March 2015). "An alliance with the DUP will be a harder bargain than either Labour or the Tories think". New Statesman. Retrieved 29 March 2016. 
  32. ^ a b Stroude, Will (5 May 2015). "Owen Jones warns of 'homophobic' DUP holding influence over future government". Attitude Magazine. Retrieved 12 January 2016. 
  33. ^ "Cameron vow on DUP gay rights stance". BBC Newsline. 23 April 2015. Retrieved 29 March 2016 – via Facebook. 
  34. ^ "Statement by First Minister & DUP Leader Peter Robinson MLA". Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  35. ^ "DUP reshuffle". BBC News NI. BBC. Retrieved 16 May 2015. 
  36. ^ "Who We Are - Democratic Unionist Party". 
  37. ^ Peter Robinson, DUP site
  38. ^ Nigel Dodds, DUP site
  39. ^ Paul Frew, DUP site
  40. ^ Michelle McIlveen, DUP site
  41. ^ Gregory Campbell, DUP site

External links[edit]