The Democratic Unionist Party: Your Need-To-Know

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The Democratic Unionist Party: Your Need-To-Know

With the general election resulting in a surprise hung parliament, Theresa May has called upon Ireland's DUP (or Democratic Unionist Party) to back up her minority government.

'Having secured the largest number of votes and the greatest number of seats in the General Election, it is clear that only the Conservative and Unionist party has the legitimacy and ability to provide that certainty by commanding a majority in the House of Commons,' she said after meeting with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

'As we do, we continue to work with our friends and allies in the Democratic Unionist party in particular.'

Bringing Theresa May's Conservatives up to the majority needed to pass bills, the DUP's 10 MPs now arguably hold the balance of power in Westminster. Here's what you should know...

Who are the DUP?

Formed in 1971, the Democratic Unionist Party is Northern Ireland's largest unionist party and, currently, its largest party, holding 28 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly and 10 in Westminster. Founded by Reverend Ian Paisley and currently led by Arlene Foster, the party is right-leaning and socially conservative.

Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP

However, it's some of their more controversial policies and soundbites that have dominated the headlines. These are the ones you should know...

Brexit

The DUP was the only Irish party to support the Leave campaign in last year's EU referendum, however leader Arlene Foster has since spoken out against a so-called 'hard' Brexit, like the one proposed by Theresa May. 'No one wants to see a "hard" Brexit, what we want to see is a workable plan to leave the European Union,' she said. 'However, we need to do it in a way that respects the specific circumstances of Northern Island and, of course, our shared history and geography with the Republic of Ireland. No one wants to see a hard border'

Abortion

The party are well known for their hardline anti-abortion views. They have repeatedly blocked any attempts to extend Northern Ireland's drastically limited abortion rights, and as recently as last year, Foster was quoted as saying 'I would not want abortion to be as freely available here as it is in England, and don't support the extension of the 1967 act,' which legalised abortion by recognised practitioners in the United Kingdom. She did, however, agree to 'carefully consider' cases where pregnancy is a result of rape.

Women in Northern Ireland who wish to terminate a pregnancy are currently forced to travel to England to undergo the procedure, or to buy illegal, unregulated and potentially dangerous abortion pills online.

LGBT rights and same-sex marriage

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which does not allow same-sex marriage: back in 2015, the regional assembly voted in favour of legalising it, but a controversial DUP veto prevented the motion from being passed.

Prominent members of the party have repeatedly been quoted referring to homosexuality as an 'abomination.' The DUP's Jim Wells resigned from his position as Health Minister in 2015 after suggesting that a child brought up in a 'homosexual relationship' would be 'far more likely to be abused and neglected.'

Climate change

The party's most recent manifesto made no references to environmental policy, and outspoken climate sceptic Sammy Wilson, who once suggested that global warming was a 'con,' previously served as their environment minister.

Most recently, Wilson described US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw his country from the Paris Agreement as 'very wise,' describing the agreement as 'totally flawed and pointless.'

Death penalty

Back in 2011, the DUP called for a parliamentary debate on the possibility of bringing back the death penalty, arguing that 'recent horrific crimes throughout the United Kingdom have led many to question whether there are certain criminals whose crimes demand such a sentence.'

Since then, prominent figures in the party haven't been afraid to speak out in favour of capital punishment, and to raise the possibility of returning to this debate.

Creationism

Creationism doesn't form part of the DUP's manifesto, but it's certainly worth noting that a number of the party's senior players subscribe to this particular world view.

Melvyn Storey, chair of the DUP Education Committee, is a member of the Caleb Foundation, who subscribe to the belief that the Earth is 'young' at less than 10,000 years old. 40 percent of DUP activists are thought to support the teaching of creationism in schools.

Line dancing

Back in 2001, DUP founder Ian Paisley described line dancing (yes, line dancing) as 'as sinful as any other type of dancing, with its sexual gestures and touching. It is an incitement to lust.'

We're sure anyone who's ever attended a barn dance would agree...

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