According to a recent BBC History article the DUP was opposed to the Good Friday Agreement, quoting that article:

In Northern Ireland, campaigning was fierce as DUP leader Ian Paisley urged a 'No' vote to safeguard the union.

I'm not sure what exactly is meant by "safeguarding the union". What specific reasons did the DUP have for opposing the agreement and do those reason still apply now?

1 Answer 1


This question touches on the political history of Northern Ireland, which is long, complicated and contentious, but the following is my best understanding.

The "union" in this case is the one created in the Acts of Union of 1800 between the Kingdom of Great Britain (itself created by a union between England and Scotland) and the Kingdom of Ireland. This act has been repealed in the Republic of Ireland, but still applies in Northern Ireland, forming the sovereign state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Safeguarding here means preventing its dissolution and repeal, here presumably through a stealth, 'little by little' tactic in which the Republic of Ireland would gradually increase its control over the rest of the island.

In general, the DUP have opposed any change of the situation on the ground, which could be seen as putting forward the concept of a single Irish nationality in the island of Ireland (including in 2018), or of anything signalling a move away from a constitutional position that Northern Ireland was now and always an integral part of the UK. They also expressed dissatisfaction with the concept of governing with Sinn Féin, whose leadership at the time included people accused or convicted of terrorist offences, and at a time when the IRA was still armed and active (although on a 'ceasefire').

  • @JJJ If the Republic had offered that unilaterally, the DUP wouldn't object to it. However the Good Friday/Belfast agreement also set up various North/South institutions, and a clearer path for people within Northern Ireland to renounce (or more directly, reject) British nationality.
    – origimbo
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 23:06
  • 1
    Thanks for you latest reply, those concessions are exactly the 'reasons' I'm interested in. Since the DUP is part of May's government, I think it's important to know which specific parts they objected to seeing how the border situation seems to be an important issue in brexit negotiations.
    – JJJ
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 4:55
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    @JJJ It's not quite right to say the DUP are part of the May government. The Conservatives are frequently relying on DUP support in parliament to pass bills, as per the two parties agreement, but this isn't a coalition like with the Liberal Democrats in 2010. There are no DUP ministers, and they aren't directly making policy decisions. As a party, the DUP tend towards the 'no surrender' side of things, so you're likely to be able to find a talking head speaking out about anything the Republic would like.
    – origimbo
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 16:53

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