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(Left to right) Jonathan Buckley, Emma Little-Pengelly, Gavin Robinson, MLA Paul Givan and Cllr Tracy Kelly Alamy Stock Photo
lagan valley

DUP announces election candidate for seat currently held by former party leader Jeffrey Donaldson

The seat is currently held by Jeffrey Donaldson, the party’s former leader, who is charged with a number of historical sex offences.

THE DUP HAS announced that Jonathan Buckley will be its candidate at the upcoming UK general election for the seat currently held by former party leader Jeffrey Donaldson.

Donaldson is currently the MP for the Lagan Valley constituency, a seat he has held for 27 years.

However, Donaldson’s lawyer announced this week that he would not be seeking re-election after he was charged with a number of historical sex offences.

Donaldson has indicated that he will be contesting the charges.

london-uk-25th-may-2021-lord-nigel-dodds-and-sir-jeffery-donaldson-dup-mp-jeffrey-donaldson-outside-the-cabinet-office-after-a-meeting-with-lord-frost-on-the-northern-ireland-protocol-pictured File image of former DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Jonathan Buckley is currently an MLA in the neighbouring Upper Bann constituency.

Making the announcement in Belfast, interim party leader Gavin Robinson described Buckley as the “next generation advocate” for unionist voters in the area.

He also repeated the call for unionist unity in the election, stating there were several seats that presented opportunities for co-operation with other unionist leaders.

Robinson said he knew there had been considerable interest in the Lagan Valley selection process as he confirmed that MLAs Emma Little-Pengelly and Paul Givan, who both represent the constituency at Stormont, would continue in their roles as deputy First Minister and Education Minister.

Announcing that Buckley would run, Robinson said: “With recent changes in Lagan Valley boundaries, almost 7,000 who were formerly in his Upper Bann constituency have now moved to Lagan Valley.

“Jonathan has strong links, including through family, to the Lisburn and wider Lagan Valley area.”

Buckley said: “I am running in Lagan Valley to ensure pro-union voters can unite behind a candidate and ensure Lagan Valley has strong representation at Westminster.”

dups-jonathan-buckley-giving-his-acceptance-speech-after-being-returned-as-an-mla-at-the-northern-ireland-assembly-election-count-centre-at-meadowbank-sports-arena-in-magherafelt-in-co-county-londond File image of the DUP's Jonathan Buckley Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The DUP is expected to face stiff competition in the constituency from Sorcha Eastwood from the cross-community Alliance Party.

The Ulster Unionist Party is also running a high-profile candidate through its deputy leader Robbie Butler.

Robinson rejected any suggestion of criticism that his party was running a candidate who does not represent Lagan Valley at Stormont.

He said he wasn’t “parachuting anybody in”.

“Johnny, along with the 7,000 individuals that he represents in Upper Bann, have been moved outside of their choice through Boundary Commission changes,” said Robinson.

“All our constituencies are different and people recognise that.

“So, if Johnny is a blow-in and any candidate in Lagan Valley would like to suggest he is, then they are dismissing the 7,000 that are walking with him.

Robinson said he believed that unionist unity was something which resonated strongly with voters.

However, other unionist parties in the region, the Ulster Unionists and the Traditional Unionist Voice, have said they are not interested in electoral pacts.

Robinson said: “Whilst I will do what I can to respect and honour the wishes of the people we have the privilege of representing, if other parties can’t see beyond themselves, if other parties can’t bring themselves to set aside person for country, then that is a matter for them.”

Press Association