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Democratic Unionist Party

The Democratic Unionist Party is a hardline Unionist party in Northern Ireland led by Ian Paisley.

Established in the 1970s by Ian Paisley. It soon won seats at local council, province, national and European level; Paisley was elected one of Northern Ireland's three Members of the European Parliament[?] (MEPs) at the first elections to the Brussels and Strasbourg-based European Parliament in 1979 and has easily retained that seat in every European election since, receiving the highest popular vote of any Northern Irish, Irish or British MEP and one of the highest anywhere in Europe.

The DUP also holds seats in the British House of Commons and has been elected to each of the Northern Ireland conventions and assemblies set up since the party's creation. It has long been the major challenger to the major unionist party, the Ulster Unionist Party (known for a time in the 1970s and 1980s as the Official Unionist Party (OUP) to distinguish it from the then multitude of other unionist partes, some set up by deposed former leaders).

The DUP were originally involved in the negotiations under former United States senator, George Mitchell[?] that led to the Belfast Agreement (also known as the Good Friday Agreement on account of the day on which it was signed.) However the party withdrew in protest when Sinn Féin, a republican party with its own paramilitary wing that had killed over a thousand people in Northern Ireland since 1970 but which had since gone on indefinite ceasefire, was allowed to participate after the ceasefire. The DUP opposed the Agreement in the referendum that followed its signing, and which saw the Agreement approved reasonably comfortably.

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 Fein's participation. The Executive ultimately was suspended over unionist unhappiness on the slow nature of Provisional Irish Republican Army disarmament.

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