Democratic Unionist Party

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The Democratic Unionist Party is, since 2003, the largest Unionist party in Northern Ireland. It is largely seen as hardline on the issue of union with Britain, although it is populist on economic issues, having a large working class base. Its primary position is supportive of the Union of Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The Reverend Ian Paisley is the leader and founder of the DUP. The party was founded in 1971 by members of the Protestant Unionist Party. The party currently has 36 MLAs in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The original support base for the DUP came from Evangelical Christians, focused around Rev. Ian Paisley and the Free Presbyterian movement. Their electoral base has expanded considerably over the past number of years and it now represents a majority of Unionist voters, however the so-called "Church wing" of the party is still considered to be prevalent.

From its foundation, it strongly opposed any attempts at reconciliation between nationalists and Unionists, from encouraging the Ulster Workers' Council Strike in opposition to the Sunningdale Agreement in 1974, to opposing the Belfast Agreement in 1998. After persistent failures of the Belfast Agreement, the party overtook the traditionally dominant Ulster Unionist Party at the 2003 Assembly Election and the 2005 Westminster Election, and from that time moved towards an agreement on power-sharing. After the St. Andrew's Agreement in October 2006, a timeframe for devolution was agreed, with Paisley due to become First Minister with Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin as Deputy First Minister on 26 March 2007. Though this plan was not reached, the two parties met for the first time on that day and set the date of 8 May 2007 when they would be ready to begin government.

Currently the DUP and Sinn Féin are in a coalition government, with support from across the board in Northern Ireland but opposition from the DUP's evangelical base.