DUP's Sir Jeffrey Donaldson steps down over sexual offence allegations

Long-serving Northern Irish MP resigns with 'immediate effect' due to 'allegations of a historical nature', party says

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was selected as DUP leader in 2019, replacing Arlene Foster. PA
Powered by automated translation

The leader of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party has stepped down after he was charged by police in connection with historical sexual offence allegations.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, 61, has been suspended “with immediate effect” and Gavin Robinson MP has been appointed as interim leader, the party said in a statement.

“The party chairman has received a letter from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP confirming that he has been charged with allegations of a 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.”

Sir Jeffrey is Northern Ireland's longest-serving MP and an influential presence in the region's political landscape.

The announcement cames weeks after he made the decision to bring the party back to powersharing in Northern Ireland.

Earlier on Friday, the Police Service of Northern Ireland confirmed that a man had been charged with historical sex offences.

“Detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland arrested and charged a 61-year-old man for non-recent sexual offences. A 57-year-old woman was also arrested and charged at the time for aiding and abetting additional offences,” a PSNI spokesman said.

The accused are set to appear in court next month.

Sir Jeffrey's 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.

He left the party over his opposition to the Good Friday Agreement and joined the DUP in January 2004.

He was recognised by Queen Elizabeth in her 2016 birthday honours and was given a knighthood.

Updated: March 30, 2024, 12:08 PM