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Meet the small party set for a big role in keeping Theresa May in power

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By Chris Harris
Meet the small party set for a big role in keeping Theresa May in power

<p>When polls were recently forecasting a landslide win for Theresa May, few people would have paid much attention to the Democratic Unionist Party (<span class="caps">DUP</span>).</p> <p>The party, which wants Northern Ireland to keep links with the United Kingdom, was set for another minor role in British politics.</p> <p>But suddenly, with the Conservatives lacking a majority and scrambling to form a government, the <span class="caps">DUP</span> have emerged as key players in May’s bid to cling onto power.</p> <h3>Who is the <span class="caps">DUP</span>?</h3> <p>The party emerged from the troubles in Northern Ireland and stand for staying in union with London, rather than join up with the rest of Ireland.</p> <p>Some remember the <span class="caps">DUP</span> as the political vehicle of Ian Paisley, the firebrand Protestant cleric who once heckled the Pope himself, calling him the antichrist.</p> <p>They won two more seats in Thursday’s election, meaning they will now have 10 MPs in Westminster.</p> <p>That puts them in a powerful position: if they enter into some kind of deal with the Conservatives, it would be enough to give May a majority, albeit a slim one.</p> <h3>What does the <span class="caps">DUP</span> stand for politically?</h3> <p>The <span class="caps">DUP</span> is a socially-conservative party: it opposes same-sex marriage and wants to maintain the country’s strict anti-abortion laws.</p> <p>It recently backed the right of a Belfast bakery to refuse to make a cake with a gay rights slogan and proposed a law to allow religious business people to refuse to serve people where that would conflict with their religious beliefs.</p> <h3>Where does it stand on Brexit?</h3> <p>Like its potential partners in Westminster, the <span class="caps">DUP</span> is pro-Brexit, although there is one key caveat to this.</p> <p>Most notably around its land border with the Republic of Ireland (<span class="caps">ROI</span>).</p> <p>After Brexit, the border between Northern Ireland and its southern neighbours becomes an EU frontier, likely to include checkpoints and enforcement.</p> <p>The <span class="caps">DUP</span> is against a so-called hard border like this. That is because the return of a physical border – removed when a peace deal was struck in 1998 – could impinge on trade between the north and south and serve as an unwelcome reminder of the island’s violent past.</p> <p>While it supports Brexit, it still wants a free trade and customs agreement with the EU. It also wants to be able to do free trade deals with the rest of the world.</p> <h3>What is the DUP’s record in power like?</h3> <p><span class="caps">DUP</span> leader Arlene Foster was the first minister in Stormont, Northern Ireland’s devolved seat of government.</p> <p>Her leadership has come under scrutiny amid the controversy surrounding the Renewable Heat Incentive Deal, <a href="http://www.euronews.com/2016/12/19/how-to-make-millions-heating-empty-sheds">a botched energy scheme</a> that could cost taxpayers 400m <span class="caps">GBP</span> (454m euros)</p> <p>The furore surrounding the deal saw power-sharing in Northern Ireland collapse, leaving the region without a government.</p> <p>So <span class="caps">DUP</span> politicians, if they do end up sitting down with May’s Conservatives, could be negotiating power-sharing in two parliaments simultaneously.</p>