DUP leader resigns after being charged with historic sex offences, party confirms

DUP leader resigns after being charged with historic sex offences, party confirms
Who is Jeffrey Donaldson?

The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party has resigned after it was revealed he had been charged with historical sex offences.

The DUP confirmed on Friday that Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who has led the party since 2021, is stepping down and is the suspect at the centre of a scandal.

In a statement released on Friday, the DUP said: “The party chairman has received a letter from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP confirming that he has been charged with allegations of an historical nature and indicating that he is stepping down as Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party with immediate effect.

“In accordance with the party rules, the party officers have suspended Mr Donaldson from membership, pending the outcome of a judicial process.”

Police revealed a 61-year-old man had been charged on Friday and a 57-year-old woman was arrested and charged alongside the politician for aiding and abetting additional offences.

A police spokesman told The Independent: “Detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland arrested and charged a 61-year-old man for non-recent sexual offences.”

Party officers have appointed Gavin Robinson MP as interim leader.

Sir Jeffrey, Northern Ireland’s longest-serving MP, was recognised by the Queen in her 2016 Birthday Honours and given a knighthood.


Donaldson’s earlier Good Friday drama

Sir Jeffrey dramatically walked out of the Northern Ireland peace talks on Good Friday 1998, prompting some people to comment that Good Friday was not a good day for unionists.

He had been a senior member of the Ulster Unionists’ negotiating delegation, and led a walkout of the peace talks after opposing the early release of republican and loyalist prisoners.

Alongside Arlene Foster, he had been part of a tight-knit group dubbed the “baby barristers” who opposed the Good Friday Agreement, the release of paramilitary prisoners and the direction in which then-UUP leader David Trimble was taking the party.

Hours before the historic accord was struck, the Lagan Valley MP famously left Castle Buildings at Stormont.

Last year, he said he harboured “no regrets” about the decision, adding: “What I have done is dedicate my career and my political involvement in the last 25 years to fixing the bits that haven’t worked, to getting solutions to the bits that weren’t properly addressed in 1998, and I continue in that endeavour.”

Jane Dalton29 March 2024 19:05


In case you missed it: Man removed from plane following ‘verbal altercation’ with DUP leader

A man was removed from a plane at Heathrow following a row with DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson last week:

Jane Dalton29 March 2024 18:35


Resignation was big shock, says ex-Northern Ireland secretary

Julian Smith, secretary of state for Northern Ireland from 2019 to 2020, said Sir Jeffrey’s resignation was a “big shock to everybody”.

He told Radio 4’s World at One: “I’m not concerned in any way that this shocking news today will lead to any change in the momentum behind powersharing, and the stability that has now brought as it was returned a couple of months ago.”

“In this leadership role he has played a critical part over the last few months.

“He led the negotiations with the government, and he worked with his own party to move them from their position of staying out of the executive on the basis that they didn’t agree with the Northern Ireland protocol to returning.”

On social media, Mr Smith said Mr Robinson and deputy first minister Emma Little-Pengelly “will chart a positive course for the future”.

Jane Dalton29 March 2024 18:00


The DUP’s statement announcing Sir Jeffrey’s resignation, pictured on a phone at the party’s headquarters in Belfast:

Jane Dalton29 March 2024 17:35


Resignation could affect deputy first minister

The identity of the new DUP leader could have ramifications for Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Emma Little Pengelly, as she was very much a Donaldson pick as the party’s nominee to jointly lead the Stormont coalition.

Ms Little Pengelly and Sinn Fein first minister Michelle O’Neill have received significant praise for their leadership of the administration since taking charge of the resurrected executive last month.

Question marks will also now hang over the DUP’s grip on the Lagan Valley parliamentary constituency, given the possibility of an imminent by-election.

Sir Jeffrey’s majority was significantly cut in the last general election amid a surge by the cross-community Alliance Party, and the DUP is likely to face a tough fight to hold the seat whenever voters next go to the polls.

<p>Emma Little-Pengelly and Michelle O’Neill </p>
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Emma Little-Pengelly and Michelle O’Neill

Jane Dalton29 March 2024 17:05


DUP chief quits: full story

Jane Dalton29 March 2024 16:30


First minister says priority is to provide leadership

Northern Ireland first minister Michelle O’Neill said her priority following the resignation was to provide leadership and continue the work of the executive.

Ms O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s vice-president, said: “My priority is to continue to provide the leadership the public expect and deserve, and to ensure the four-party executive coalition delivers for the whole of our community now and in the future.

“The DUP leader has resigned after being charged with serious offences. This is now a matter for the criminal justice system.”

Jane Dalton29 March 2024 16:24


Gavin Robinson, DUP interim leader likely to succeed Donaldson

Gavin Robinson has been the DUP’s deputy leader since last June and has been appointed interim leader in the wake of Jeffrey Donaldson’s resignation.

He is likely to stay on as party leader, becoming the fourth head of the DUP since Arlene Foster was forced out in 2021.

Mr Robinson, who has been the MP for Belfast East in the House of Commons since 2015, was lord mayor of Belfast in 2012–2013.

He is one of 21 MPs who in 2019 voted against LGBT inclusive sex and relationship education for schools in England.

But in 2012 he also became the first DUP representative to attend a gay pride event, saying that as lord mayor he wanted to “engage with every section of our society”.

It is thought Mr Robinson is expected to maintain the DUP’s participation in power sharing in Northern Ireland, keeping the devolved government up and running.

<p>DUP MP Gavin Robinson (Liam McBurney/PA)</p>
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DUP MP Gavin Robinson (Liam McBurney/PA)

Jane Dalton29 March 2024 15:46


‘I won’t be bullied’ – Donaldson

After Sir Jeffrey steered a DUP boycott of power-sharing in Northern Ireland over Brexit arrangements, the party finally agreed to return to Stormont in February. It followed the agreement of a new deal on trade arrangements and a series of measures aimed at providing assurances around Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the United Kingdom.

However, the DUPs dealings with government were not universally welcome and Sir Jeffrey told the Commons in January that he had been subjected to threats during the negotiations.

Later, a PSNI spokesperson said no offences were detected following an investigation – while Sir Jeffrey said a decision was made not to press charges.

He said: “We must stand against those who would seek to bully with violent threats. I wasn’t intimidated out of politics 30 years ago and I won’t be intimidated in 2024.”

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says DUP will vote against the Windsor Framework
Jane Dalton29 March 2024 15:45


Ex-MEP sorry Donaldson quit

Conservative former MEP David Bannerman said he was sorry to see Sir Jeffrey quitting.

Jane Dalton29 March 2024 15:30

Source: independent.co.uk