Explain how the DUP has changed its policies (26)

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Explain how the DUP has changed its policies (26)

The difference between the DUP of the late 1990s/early 2000s and today is remarkable. From being a party of protest, it has been one of power over the last decade. Having threatened to ‘smash Sinn Fein’, it now shares power with that party.  Having overtaken its internal bloc rival, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) by 2003, the DUP proceeded to accept all it had repudiated in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement when signing the St Andrews Agreement in 2006, albeit also obliging Sinn Fein to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Unprecedented electoral success amid Unionist anxieties over the Good Friday Agreement offered Paisley the chance to become First Minister and end his career as a ‘statesman’ rather than as a bombastic, marginalised oppositional figure. Paisley’s new-found willingness to find politically acceptable all that had been previously ‘morally unjust’ was clearly a derivative of the party’s newly dominant status. Even in a top-down organisation, the DUP leader had to carry his party and it is in this respect that the new influx was crucial. Almost one-quarter of DUP members once belonged to the UUP. Most defected during the early 2000s, joining the DUP in opposition to particular aspects of the Agreement and its aftermath – such as the release of ‘terrorist’ prisoners and changes to policing and were seen as ostensibly hardline. This influx of new members caused many policy changes.

Crucially, many of the ex-UUP members – and others who have joined the DUP since the early 2000s – did not reject power-sharing with Irish nationalists per se. Rather, they wanted devolution; accepted the principles of shared cabinet positions; supported the need for weighted cross-community support and even endorsed all-island economic bodies. Provided Sinn Fein moved their associates in the IRA to call off its armed campaign and decommission weapons, and offered support for the police, all of which happened by early 2007, newer members were ready to move to sharing power with Sinn Fein. Softer stances on all these positions are not merely attributable to the possibilities of youth. What matters attitudinally in the DUP is when a member joined – not how old they are.

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The DUP has changed its policies regarding policing. Initially they were part of the ‘Save the RUC’ campaign, but since the Hillsborough Agreement of 2010 they have supported the rebranding of the police as the PSNI and they supported the 50/50 recruitment policy between protestant and Catholics. This dramatic change of policy angered some of their more hardline supporters.

The DUP has changed its policies with regards to co-operating with the Republic of Ireland. In the past they refused to sit on the North South Ministerial Council, but now they do and have even engaged with the Gaelic Athletic ...

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