The Democratic Union Party (DUP), now the largest political party in Northern Ireland, has distanced itself from much of its fundamentalist past and is accommodating a more pragmatic wing, according to Gladys Ganiel of Trinity College, Dublin.
In a paper presented at the meeting of the ASR, she traced how the DUP has changed from once being the right-wing political bastion of fundamentalist leader Ian Paisely to a party that has a growing secular and pragmatic wing under the leadership of Peter Robinson. The DUP has shifted away from evangelical issues and will compromise on peripheral issues, such as Sabbath observance. Today the fundamentalist or Paisleyite segment is seen more as a lobby within the DUP than its core element, functioning similar to the way the Christian Coalition works with the Republican Party in the U.S.
But Ganiel concluded that even as the DUP tries to appeal to a wider base, it still has a strong anti-Catholic element that makes it difficult to accommodate Sinn Fein and republicanism. The DUP’s intransigence on social and moral issues could be seen in its refusal to sign the Belfast peace agreement and its opposition to releasing political prisoners without their repenting of their actions.