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Donaldson steps down as DUP leader amid ‘historical’ sex offence charges

29 Mar 2024 2 minute read
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has quit as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party after being been charged with historical sex offences.

The 61-year-old politician is due to appear in court in Newry, Co Down, on April 24 having been arrested and charged in relation to non-recent sexual allegations.

A 57-year-old woman has been charged with aiding and abetting additional offences in relation to the same police investigation.

The Lagan Valley MP has been suspended from the DUP pending the outcome of the judicial process and East Belfast MP and deputy leader Gavin Robinson has been appointed interim party leader.

The DUP said it had received a letter from Sir Jeffrey stating that he had been charged with allegations of a historical nature and that he would be stepping down as leader.

Judicial process

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

“The party officers have this morning unanimously appointed Mr Gavin Robinson MP as the interim party leader.”

Overnight, Mr Donaldson’s website and social media accounts, including on X, Facebook and Instagram, were deleted.

The shock announcement comes just weeks after Sir Jeffrey made the decision to bring the party back to powersharing in Northern Ireland.

Sir Jeffrey’s leadership saw him steer the party’s two-year boycott of Northern Ireland’s political institutions in protest over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

After protracted negotiations, the DUP agreed to return to Stormont in February following the agreement of a new deal and a series of assurances around Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the United Kingdom.

40-year career

Sir Jeffrey, who has had an almost 40-year career in politics, became DUP leader in July 2021.

His career started with the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and in 1985, aged 22, he was the youngest person to be elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The 61-year-old’s relationship with former UUP leader David Trimble deteriorated when he led a walkout of the 1998 peace talks after opposing the early release of republican and loyalist prisoners.

He left the party and joined the DUP in January 2004.

He was recognised by the Queen in her 2016 Birthday Honours and was given a knighthood.


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Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
19 days ago

Him and his party are more farther to the Right than the Far Right wing of the Tories and Reform

Jeff
Jeff
19 days ago

Carefully tip toes around the boundaries as no day in court yet but the date for court is rather quick.
Oh wow. One paper listing charges.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
19 days ago

Innocent until proven guilty is the first thing to say here and I will make no further comment on the case that is opening. Stop. This is the man who is ultimately responsible for collapsing Stormont and is now claiming all the credit for bringing it back. He sneers and snarls at the EU and the Irish government choosing to place the blame for his problem anywhere but where the blame actually rests which is upon the Conservative and Unionist Party and especially Boris Johnson. Sunak has twice recently referred Donaldson during PMQs as ‘my honourable friend’. Friend should only… Read more »

Pete Cuthbert
Pete Cuthbert
19 days ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

Yes, but perhaps more importantly, is his replacement, Gavin Robinson, more or less likely to undermine the Stormont Government? The poor folk of Ulster really do need to get their Government working again and dealing the multitude of problems that have grown during the buoycott.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
19 days ago
Reply to  Pete Cuthbert

We’ve barely had time to consider that but yes, I agree that the people of the sectioned off six counties within Ulster (but not Ulster) most certainly do need their government working again.

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