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LONDON – A small party from Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party, has signed an arrangement that will prop up the Conservative government led by British Prime Minister Theresa May. Without the smaller party's 10 votes, the Conservatives would fall short of a needed majority. Put together, the two parties will have enough seats in the House of Commons to command a majority in Parliament on key votes.
THE DEMOCRATIC UNIONISTS ARE BIGGEST PARTY IN NORTHERN IRELAND
The Democratic Unionist Party is a pro-British, largely Protestant party that wants Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1971 by the Rev. Ian Paisley, a rabble-rousing advocate of keeping Northern Ireland part of the union rather than being united with the rest of Ireland. In the past the party has had links to paramilitary groups backing the loyalist cause.
After the Good Friday agreement in 1998 put an end to the decades of violence known as "The Troubles," Paisley mended fences with his Catholic opponents and eventually served as first minister of the power-sharing government. The party has long played a central role in Northern Ireland and now stands to gain more influence in Parliament as well.
DUP's DIFFERENCES WITH THE CONSERVATIVES
The DUP generally takes a sterner line on social issues. It opposes the right to abortion, which was legalized in England, Scotland and Wales in 1967. It also opposes same-sex marriage, which has been possible in the rest of the United Kingdom since 2014.
The DUP does agree with the Conservative Party in favoring leaving the European Union. The party is particularly keen on keeping open the border with the Irish Republic, a member of the European Union.
SOME PARTIES AND REGIONS WILL FEEL LEFT OUT
The sight of DUP leader Arlene Foster smiling on the steps of 10 Downing Street with Prime Minister Theresa May will not sit well with rivals Sinn Fein and its leader, Gerry Adams, who maintains the deal would break the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Opponents of the deal say the British government would no longer be acting as a neutral party with regards to Northern Ireland if the DUP has an active role in government.
The fact that the deal commits a substantial amount of extra money to Northern Ireland for help with infrastructure, education and health services is likely to provoke protest from other regions that are also seeking more funding from the central government for a variety of programs.