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What you need to know about the DUP - the party supporting Theresa May's new minority government

It is the fifth largest party in the Commons with 10 seats.


The Democratic Unionist Party is Northern Ireland’s largest party.

Founded in 1971 by loyalist and Protestant minister Ian Paisley, its 45-year history has not been without controversy as it espouses right-wing views, including its opposition to same-sex marriage.

Currently, it is the fifth largest party in the Commons with 10 seats, following the 2017 General Election. It holds 28 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It now stands in the unique position to complete Theresa May’s minority government.

Who is it led by?


Arlene Foster has been at the helm of the party since December 2015 and served as First Minister of Northern Ireland between January 2016 and January 2017.

Born in 1970, Foster was exposed to attacks during the Troubles, including an attempt on her father’s life by the IRA.

She began her career in politics after joining the Queen’s Unionist Association at Queens University, Belfast, where she read law. The unionist association formed part of the centre-right Ulster Unionist Party, where she held prominent positions in the party’s youth wing and ruling body.


She courted controversy in her 2003 election to the Northern Ireland Assembly, as a member of the “baby barristers”, a right-wing group within the party who were said to be a “thorn in the side” of then-party leader, David Trimble due to his support for the Good Friday Agreement.

She joined the DUP in 2004 and has since held ministerial positions including Minister for the Environment.

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In January 2017, she was forced to step down after presiding over a “cash for ash” scandal, a failed Renewable Heat Incentive scheme which cost the Northern Ireland budget some £490 million.

The solicitor, who has emerged as the kingmaker in the hung parliament, is married with two sons and a daughter.

Where does the party stand on key issues?


The party has been described as far-right in its views, especially on abortion and rights for the LGBT community.

Same-sex marriage

Marriage between same-sex couples remains illegal in Northern Ireland, and the party has been criticised as homophobic. Party founder Ian Paisley campaigned against legalising homosexuality.

The DUP has tried several times to frustrate and prevent the legalisation of gay marriage with a veto mechanism.

The party actively campaigned against the legalisation of gay sex, and were at the forefront of the Save Ulster from Sodomy movement in the 1980s.


Foster has been an outspoken opponent of abortion, stating previously that she did not support the extension of the Abortion Act 1967 to Northern Ireland, which would legalise terminations.

Ending a pregnancy is permitted on very restrictive rules, including when a woman’s life is at risk. However, rape and incest are not grounds for abortion.

Climate Change


The party’s former Environment Minister, Sammy Wilson, has dubbed environmental decline a “myth based on dodgy science”, adding that he believed it to be an “hysterical pseudo-religion”.

Critics have denounced the party’s approach to climate change in Northern Ireland as a “wild west for the environment”, with Friends of the Earth labelling Wilson as a “climate pariah”.

He calls for a reactive approach to fighting climate change, as opposed to working definitively to stop it by investing in resources to slow down its effects.


Although the party campaigned to leave the EU, it opposes a hard Brexit and favours a frictionless border with the Republic of Ireland, along with easier movement of people, goods and services between borders.

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