Of all the search queries you thought you might be typing in this morning I bet “who are the DUP” was certainly not one of them.
Granted it is part of the wider quandary of “what comes next”, but with just hours after the first results have landed the most likely outcome of the 2017 snap election is that the Tories will band together with Northern Ireland’s DUP – either in a coalition or more likely a “supply and confidence arrangement” – which will allow them to stay in government.
So who are the DUP?
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 will occupy ten seats in the House of Commons when parliament reconvenes – giving the Conservatives the 326 needed if an arrangement is made.
The party is pro-Brexit, pro-Union and notably anti-Corbyn. They said categorically that they supported the nuclear deterrent and given Corbyn’s well-publicised links with Sinn Fein it would be safe to assume that they would in no circumstances support a minority Labour administration.
The irony of the Conservatives forming a government with the DUP – founded by members of the Ulster Resistance, an armed Loyalist paramilitary group formed in opposition the Anglo-Irish Agreement peace talks – won’t be lost on anybody in Westminster, after an election campaign which largely involved smearing Jeremy Corbyn for having talked with members of the IRA that went onto becoming Republican politicians.
So will they be keen to ‘buddy up’ with May?
As Patrick Maguire wrote in the New Statesman, “the answer is almost certainly yes”.
The DUP were among the most enthusiastic supporters of May’s premiership in the last parliament, and they may use the added influence to push for a soft border with Ireland in Brexit talks to ensure a safe economic future.
But May may err on the side of caution in her dealings with Northern Ireland’s biggest party.
Critics of the DUP say the party should be avoided for opposing the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland as well as opposing moves to reverse climate change and their controversial views on abortion – anti-choice and pro-forced pregnancy. The DUP will surely be hoping that this helps them foil those desperate to have the 1967 Abortion Act finally apply in Northern Ireland.
On thing that is for sure is that if you didn’t know about the DUP before today, you will be hearing a lot more about them in the future.