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Allison Morris: DUP now need to repay loyalist loyalty

DUP leader Arlene Foster leaves the Stormont Hotel, the party will now go into a partnership government with the Conservatives. Picture Mal McCann.

The DUP, now partners in a minority Westminster government, owe their enormous success in several areas to a surge in the usually hard to reach working class loyalist vote.

The unapologetic support of the UDA linked Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) for DUP candidates in North, South and East Belfast was most vocal in the week leading up to Thursday's election.

The Loyalist magazine, which has links to the UDA, urged support for Emma Little Pengelly in the marginal south Belfast seat.

A working class vote in places like Taughmonagh and Sandy Row helped her secure the seat almost 2000 votes ahead of her nearest rival, the outgoing MP Dr Alasdair McDonnell.

In North Belfast where Sinn Féin fielded an untested, but popular, candidate in solicitor John Finucane, support from loyalist areas helped Nigel Dodds keep his seat with and impressive 21,240 votes.

Fear generated from Sinn Féin's strong performance in the March assembly election along with the DUP election campaign based around securing the union will have helped mobilise some of those dormant votes.

But encouragement from those 'community' figures who still hold sway and influence and who helped organise voter registration drives in loyalist areas, has undoubtedly paid dividends.

But will be the price for those crucial votes - what has been agreed?

Loyalist sources claim they have been promised an end to historic investigations and prosecutions.

When Tony Blair wanted to keep Sinn Féin onside he agreed to a deal regarding so called 'on the runs'.

But to date any talk of a blanket amnesty, or 'line in the sand' has been met with anger on all sides.

The DUPs new position of strength with a Conservative government, who have already indicated support for an amnesty for former soldiers, is key.

Loyalist sources claim they have already been assured that any future legacy deal will put a statute of limitations on all prosecutions, not just those carried out by the state.

But for victims that would be a high price to pay for DUP electoral success.


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