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  History of the Ulster Democractic Unionist Party :
 

The Democratic Unionist Party is currently the largest Unionist political party in Northern Ireland. Founded by Ian Paisley and currently led by Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA, it is the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the fourth-largest party in the House of Commons, holding 8 seats. In effect however they are the third largest grouping in the Commons, as the Con-Lib coalition government means that they are regarded as one single political block. In the House of Lords the DUP now have four voices, in Lord Morrow, Lord Browne and Baroness Paisle and Lord Paisley. The party is also served in the European Parliament by its MEP, Mrs Diane Dodds.

The Party’s origins can be traced back to the Protestant Unionist Party (PUP) which was formed by Ian Paisley and operated from 1966 to 1971. It was the forerunner of the modern Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and emerged from Ulster Protestant . The UPA had two councillors elected in 1964, and in 1967 both were re-elected as PUP candidates. They stood six candidates against the Ulster Unionist Party members of the Stormont parliament in the 1969 election and polled over 20,000 votes.

When Terence O'Neill (the then Northern Irish Prime Minister) stood down from Stormont in 1970 along with one of his colleagues, the PUP nominated candidates, Ian Paisley and William Beattie, for the two vacant seats. Both were elected to Stormont and on 18 June 1970 Ian Paisley was elected to represent the Antrim North constituency at Westminster.

The Ulster Democratic Unionist Party was established on 29 September 1971, following a meeting in the Grand Central Hotel in Belfast. At that meeting it was agreed that a new party was needed to stem the policies of appeasement which were espoused by the Official Unionist Party, and provide a voice for discontented unionists. Those in attendance at this meeting included Bill Craig, Martin Smyth, Desmond Boal and Ian Paisley. In response, the Protestant Unionist Party agreed to disband and give its support to the Ulster Democratic Unionist Party. In order to organise the new Party on a province wide level, a meeting was held on 30 October 1971, in the Ulster Hall in Belfast. At this meeting a steering committee was elected with Desmond Boal as acting chairman. This event signified the official birth of the new Party.

In March 1972 the Heath Government in Westminster prorogued the Stormont Parliament, initiating Direct Rule from Westminster and bringing to an end over 50 years of self government in Northern Ireland. The next few decades were marked by a total and utter failure of successive Governments at Westminster to adequately comprehend the complexities of the Northern Ireland situation and often lead to simple-minded, totally inadequate and quite often counterproductive solutions.

Since its foundation the party has won seats at local council, provincial, national and European level. The DUP contested its first election in 1973, winning approximately 4% of the vote in local council elections and 11% in elections for the new Northern Ireland Assembly, where they won eight seats. The party strongly condemned the proposal to form a power-sharing executive body, the Northern Ireland Executive, from members of the assembly. It also opposed the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement, which proposed the creation of a cross-border “Council of Ireland” to oversee a range of economic and cultural affairs in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. The agreement led to Ulster Workers Strike in May 1974 and eventually to the resignation of the executive government and the return of Direct Rule. In 1975 the DUP contested elections as part of the United Ulster Unionist Council (UUUC) alliance. The UUUC was dissolved in 1977.

At the first European Election in 1979 Ian Paisley was returned as Northern Ireland’s most popular candidate and proceeded to top the poll in every European election until 2004. In 2004 he stood down and was replaced as the Jim Allister, who subsequently resigned from the party in 2007 and failed in his attempts to launch a solo political career.

In the General Election of 1979, Ian Paisley was joined at Westminster by his party colleague, Peter Robinson in East Belfast. In doing so Robinson overturned an Ulster Unionist majority of 17,000 by 64 votes. In 1980 Peter Robinson was elected as the party’s deputy leader, a position he ably filled until 2008, when he became leader. Rev William McCrea joined his DUP colleagues in 1983 when he was returned as MP for the Mid-Ulster constituency. He held this seat until 1997, when after a review of the constituency boundaries, Mid-Ulster became a solidly nationalist seat.

The party was extremely active in the campaign against the imposition of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, which saw Dublin provided with a totally unaccountable consultative roll in the running of an integral part of the United Kingdom. Along with other Unionist MPs the DUP resigned their seats in protest and were re-elected in the subsequent by-election. In 1986 Ian Paisley delivered one of the most famous speeches of his career in front of Belfast City Hall before a quarter of a million people, who had gathered to demonstrate their outrage and opposition to Dublin interference in Northern Ireland’s internal affairs.

The DUP proceeded to work with UUP leader James Molyneaux in talks held in 1991–92 between Northern Ireland’s major parties and the British and Irish governments. By the mid-nineties however, the UUP had begun to wilt in the face of republican pressure, and it was left to the DUP to espouse true Unionist principles.

In the election to the Northern Ireland Forum in 1996, the DUP were returned as the second largest unionist party, behind the UUP. This body was created as part of a process of negotiations towards a political settlement in Northern Ireland. The DUP was originally involved in these negotiations, which were chaired by the US Senator George Mitchell; however the party withdrew when Sinn Féin/IRA joined the talks, despite the IRA remaining fully armed and fully operational. Contrary to criticism regarding this withdrawal, the UUP had sufficient numbers to rubber stamp any proposals without DUP agreement. They, despite previous agreements, remained in the talks which ultimately lead to the signing of the ill-fated Belfast Agreement.

In the lead up to the Referendum the DUP was at the forefront of the “NO” campaign, when the majority of Unionists rejected the Belfast Agreement. The opposition was based on a number of reasons, including, allowing Sinn Féin to hold Government office despite ongoing IRA activity, the lack of accountability of Ministers within the Executive and the lack of accountability of the North/South Ministerial Council and all-Ireland Implementation Bodies. The DUP’s analysis was further vindicated when William McCrea captured the South Antrim Westminster seat in a by-election caused by the untimely death of UUP MP Clifford Forsythe, who in the 1997 General Election had been returned with a majority in excess of 16,000.

The DUP fought the resulting election to the Northern Ireland Assembly and took two seats in the multi-party power-sharing executive but while serving as ministers refused to sit in at meetings of the Executive Committee (cabinet) in protest at Sinn Féin's participation. Given the fact that the UUP had ensured that an armed and active terrorist organisation were provided with seats in the Executive, it was inevitable that the Assembly would collapse under the weight of democracy and in time it proceeded to do so.

In 2001 the DUP returned five MP’s to Westminister:

MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT - 2001

CONSTITUENCY NAME
North Antrim Ian Paisley MP
North Belfast Nigel Dodds MP
East Belfast Peter Robinson MP
Strangford Iris Robinson MP
East Londonderry Gregory Campbell MP

The tenacity and commitment of the Party in standing firm for democracy, was one of the central planks of its subsequent electoral successes. During the 2003 Assembly Election, the DUP argued for a "Fair Deal" that could command the support of both unionists and nationalists. As a result the DUP became the largest political party in Northern Ireland, winning 30 seats. In 2004, it became the largest Northern Ireland party at Westminster, with the defection of Jeffrey Donaldson MP from the ranks of the UUP. On 12 December 2004 the Conservative MP Andrew Hunter also took the DUP whip, giving the party seven seats, in comparison to the UUP's five, Sinn Féin's four, and the SDLP's three.

After the result of 2003 Assembly Election, the DUP argued that support was no longer present within Unionism for the Belfast Agreement. They then went on to publish their proposals for devolution in Northern Ireland entitled “Devolution Now”. In the 2005 general election, the party reinforced its position as the largest 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.

MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT - 2005

CONSTITUENCY NAME
East Belfast Peter Robinson MP
North Belfast Nigel Dodds MP
South Antrim William McCrea MP
East Antrim Sammy Wilson MP
North Antrim Ian Paisley MP
East Londonderry Gregory Campbell MP
Upper Bann David Simpson MP
Lagan Valley Jeffrey Donaldson MP
Strangford Iris Robinson MP

At the Local Government election of 2005, the DUP also emerged as the largest party at Council level with 182 Councillors across Northern Ireland's 26 District Councils. The DUP are currently the largest party on Ards Borough Council, Antrim Borough Council, Ballymena Borough Council, Ballymoney Borough Council, Banbridge District Council, Belfast City Council, Carrickfergus Borough Council, Coleraine Borough Council, Craigavon Borough Council and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

Following the failure of the Belfast Agreement and the inability of republicans to rid themselves of their paramilitarism, Northern Ireland was dragged into a period of serious political instability which had ultimately resulted in the collapse of the NI Assembly. This forced the parties back to the negotiating table and this time with the DUP as the lead Unionist party, a Fair Deal was delivered. The St Andrew’s Agreement of 2006 forced Sinn Fein to abandon terrorism and criminality while at the same time embracing the authority of the PSNI and Courts. From this time forth, concessions to republicans ceased and in the time since Sinn Fein have failed to advance their United Ireland agenda on any front.

The party took the outcome of these talks to the electorate in the Assembly election of March 2007. They returned to Stormont as Northern Ireland’s largest party having secured 36 Assembly seats. On 8 May 2007 Ian Paisley was installed as First Minister of Northern Ireland. Almost a year later, on 4 March 2008, he announced that he would stand down as DUP leader and First Minister of Northern Ireland, in May 2008. On 17 April, Peter Robinson was elected, unopposed, as leader of the DUP and succeeded Paisley as First Minister at a special sitting of the assembly on 5 June 2008. Nigel Dodds was elected as the new Deputy Leader.

The only remaining piece of the devolution jigsaw that remained outstanding was that of Policing & Justice, which the party committed not to consider until such times as there was community confidence and as part of a good deal for Unionism. Lead by Peter Robinson, the DUP delivered a comprehensive deal that both secured the Devolution of Policing and Justice while addressing a number of other outstanding matters including that of parades, compensation for former members of the RUC Full-Time Reserve and security funding.

In the 2010 General Election, the party returned 8 Members of Parliament and for the first time in history became the sole voice of Unionism in Northern Ireland in the House of Commons.

MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT - 2010

CONSTITUENCY NAME
North Belfast Nigel Dodds MP
South Antrim William McCrea MP
East Antrim Sammy Wilson MP
North Antrim Ian Paisley Jnr MP
East Londonderry Gregory Campbell MP
Upper Bann David Simpson MP
Lagan Valley Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP
Strangford Jim Shannon MP

MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS

Lord Morrow of Clogher Valley
Lord Browne of Belmont
Baroness Paisley of St.George’s
Lord Paisley

 

 

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