Explain how the DUP dominates unionism
It could be argued that the UUP has been unsuccessful in mounting any challenge to the DUP. The DUP remains the dominant unionist party, and it has been since 2003. It was founded in the 1970s by Ian Paisley and was based on the principles of implacable opposition to nationalism and opposition to any weakening of the union with NI and Great Britain. It was the second party in unionism up until the Good Friday Agreement, lagging considerably behind the dominant UUP (which had dominated unionism for 70 years.) Its support was based on a stronger form of ‘no compromise’ unionism/loyalism with a solid working class but also middle class, conservative vote. It is traditionally linked to the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church, but in more recent times has tried to reach a wider audience.
The Good Friday agreement was the point that marked the beginning of the UUP’s decline and also the beginning of the DUP’s rise to dominance. No amount of new strategies by the UUP can reverse the damage that agreeing to the GFA caused. DUP were of course firmly against the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. However, this time it found itself at odds with the UUP and bitterly opposed the party as it tried to bring peace. Rather than being the odd one out the DUP set on a strategy of working against the Agreement from within the new NI Assembly in an attempt to destroy it from within. This was clearly succeeding. The UUP were being steadily undermined by their strategy of working with Sinn Fein in the absence of decommissioning of weapons. Unionists felt as if they were making all the concessions (such as prisoner release and RUC reform) without anything in return. The DUP revelled in its opposition to the UUP and gradually took votes. It made the first Assembly almost unworkable – refusing to attend meetings with Sinn Fein or refusing to go to the NSMC meetings. Ironically, the agreement it set out to destroy was also the making of the DUP. Their opposition to the GFA propelled the party to its present dominance.