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Jeffrey Donaldson replaces Nigel Dodds as DUP's Westminster leader

Meanwhile, Sammy Wilson MP has been elected as the DUP’s chief whip.

DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson
DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson
Image: House of Commons via PA Images

JEFFREY DONALDSON HAS been elected as DUP’s Westminster leader, Arlene Foster has announced. 

This comes after DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, who had previously held the Westminster position, lost his seat in north Belfast in last week’s UK general election. 

“The DUP Parliamentary Party has been very ably led by Nigel Dodds over recent years. as someone who commanded respect right across the House of Commons he will be missed not just by DUP MPs but across all parties,” Donaldson said in a statement this evening. 

“I am delighted to have been elected by my colleagues as leader of our Parliamentary team,” he said. 

Donaldson noted that the initial focus of the Parliament “will undoubtedly be Brexit and the Prime Minister’s withdrawal deal”. 

“We will continue to seek change to that deal and work with the government to deliver on their promise that Northern Ireland’s economic and constitutional integrity will be protected as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union,” Donaldson said. 

Meanwhile, Sammy Wilson MP has been elected as the DUP’s chief whip. 

Following last week’s election, the DUP now has eight MPs, down from 10 MPs in the last election. Sinn Féin has stayed the same on seven. The SDLP now has two MPs, and the Alliance Party has one in Lady Sylvia Hermon’s former constituency.

This means that, for the first time, nationalist parties have more MPs than unionist parties – a major shift in the North’s politics. 

Northern Ireland Assembly

In a statement this evening congratulating Wilson and Donaldson, Foster said that she wants to see a functioning Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive working alongside the party’s representatives in Parliament. 

“The DUP will continue to focus on the issues which matter to all our citizens, both in Westminster and at the Assembly. We want to get Northern Ireland moving again with decisions taken on our schools and hospitals,” she said.

Yesterday, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Julian Smith held bilateral meetings with the leaders of the five parties at Stormont House as a new talks initiative process got under way ahead of a looming deadline in January.

Roundtable talks involving the UK and Irish governments and all the parties are scheduled for later this week.

If a devolved executive is not resurrected by 13 January, legislation that gives the civil service extra powers to run public services will expire, and Smith will be under a legal duty to call a snap Assembly election.

After his meetings, Smith described the mood as “positive” and said he detected a willingness to strike a deal. He said the government was willing to do “everything it can” to support any fresh investment in public services.

Includes reporting by Press Association

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