Donaldson allegations a devastating revelation for DUP

Donaldson allegations a ‘devastating revelation’ for DUP

The new leader of the DUP has described charges of historical sex offences against Sir Jeffrey Donaldson as a “devastating revelation” for the party.

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

It is understood that Sir Jeffrey is facing one count of rape, one count of gross indecency, and several counts of indecent assault.

It is further understood that in a letter to party officers, he made clear he would be “strenuously contesting” all charges against him.

The 61-year-old politician, who was arrested and charged on Thursday, will appear in court in Newry, Co Down, on April 24 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 the letter from Sir Jeffrey saying he had been charged with allegations of a historical nature and that he would be stepping down as leader.

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.”

Mr Robinson said: “It has been a devastating revelation and has caused tremendous shock not just for myself personally or my colleagues within the DUP, but for the community right across Northern Ireland.

“It came as a great shock. But we are a party and individuals that believe in justice, we have faith in our criminal justice system.”

Mr Robinson said the party became aware of the allegations “very late” on Thursday.

He said: “So, in the coming days and months I think it is important none of us say anything or act in any way that would seek to prejudice what is now an ongoing criminal investigation.”

Sir Jeffrey’s membership of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has also been suspended.

A spokesman for the organisation said: “Jeffrey Donaldson’s membership has been suspended, in accordance with the rules of the Loyal Orange Institution, pending the outcome of the legal process.”

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

The shock announcement comes just weeks after Sir Jeffrey made the decision to return the party 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 at post-Brexit trading arrangements.

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

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.

His 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.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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