April 13, 2024

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Northern Ireland DUP leader Geoffrey Donaldson resigns after police charges |  Politics news

Northern Ireland DUP leader Geoffrey Donaldson resigns after police charges | Politics news

Media reports say that the charges against the head of the Democratic Unionist Party relate to “non-recent sexual crimes.”

The leader of Northern Ireland's largest unionist party, Geoffrey Donaldson, has resigned after confirming he was accused of “allegations of a historical nature,” the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland said.

“In accordance with party rules, party officials have suspended Mr Donaldson pending the outcome of the judicial process,” a DUP statement said on Friday.

The statement added that party officials unanimously appointed Gavin Robinson, another member of the Democratic Unionist Parliament in the United Kingdom, as interim party president.

While the DUP did not specify the reason behind the 61-year-old's resignation, several media outlets reported that Donaldson's resignation from his position was linked to a statement by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) reporting that two people had been arrested.

A PSNI statement said: “A 61-year-old man has been charged in relation to non-recent sexual offences.”

“A 57-year-old woman was also arrested and charged at the time with aiding and abetting additional crimes.

“They are both scheduled to appear at Newry Magistrates’ Court on April 24,” she added.

British police generally do not identify suspects by name.

Meanwhile, all of Donaldson's social media accounts appeared to have been deleted on Friday, with his X social media handle displaying the message “This account does not exist.”

“Serious crimes”

His resignation comes amid a turbulent period for the DUP as the party attempts to chart its relations with the UK, which is expected to hold a general election later this year.

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Last month, Donaldson brokered a deal with the UK government that enabled an end to the DUP's two-year boycott of the British region's power-sharing assembly at Stormont, and he was also expected to lead his party into the next UK general election.

Donaldson is one of the British region's best-known politicians and is Northern Ireland's longest-serving legislator in the British Parliament, having been first elected in 1997. He is also a former member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

However, as a member of the London Parliament, he does not hold a position in Northern Ireland's power-sharing government, a key part of the region's 1998 peace settlement which only resumed last month after being suspended for two years.

After Donaldson's sudden resignation, Northern Ireland's First Minister Michelle O'Neill said that the power-sharing government was focusing on implementing its policy initiatives.

O'Neill, whose Irish nationalist party, Sinn Féin, said: “My priority is to continue to provide the leadership the public expects and deserves, and to ensure that the four-party executive coalition delivers its role for our whole community now and into the future.” Forced to share power with the DUP.

“The DUP leader has resigned after being charged with serious crimes. This is now a matter for the criminal justice system.”