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File photo of Donaldson. Alamy
Northern Ireland

Jeffrey Donaldson resigns as leader of the DUP as he faces historical offences allegations

The Lagan Valley MP issued a statement to confirm he was charged and a judicial process has started.

LAST UPDATE | 29 Mar

JEFFREY DONALDSON HAS stepped down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) as he faces charges for historical offences.

Donaldson, who has sat as an MP in the House of Commons for Lagan Valley since 1997, took over from Edwin Poots as party leader in 2021.

The DUP has said appointed Gavin Robinson MP as the Interim Party Leader.

In a statement the Party 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.

“The Party Officers have this morning unanimously appointed Mr Gavin Robinson MP as the Interim Party Leader.”

Donaldson is due in court on 24 April. BBC News is reporting that he will be strenuously contesting the charges.

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

In a statement, Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill said that her 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 Orange Order has told media that it has suspended Donaldson’s membership in accordance with its rules. 

Recent weeks

The shock announcement comes just weeks after he made the decision to bring the party back to powersharing in Northern Ireland. His leadership saw him steer the party’s two-year boycott of Northern Ireland’s political institutions in protest over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

He has had an almost 40-year career in politics, becoming 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.

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