DUP leadership: Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is only candidateon June 22, 2021 at 11:59 am

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Sir Jeffrey is the only candidate and his name will now to go the party’s electoral college.

Donaldson

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Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is the only candidate to succeed Edwin Poots as Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader.

Nominations closed at midday on Tuesday.

Edwin Poots resigned on Thursday after an internal party revolt, leaving the DUP looking for a third leader in a matter of weeks.

Sir Jeffrey’s name will go forward to the party’s electoral college, which is expected to meet on Saturday.

Candidates for the position had to submit their names to the party chairman, Lord Morrow, backed by a proposer and a seconder.

Following the meeting of the electoral college he will have to be ratified as party leader at a meeting of the DUP executive, which could take place next week.

He would become the party’s fifth leader in its 50-year history.

In a statement issued after nominations closed, Sir Jeffrey said he had the “vision to unite Northern Ireland and heal the divisions of the past”.

“The task ahead is great,” he continued.

“I do not underestimate the challenge, but I know the overwhelming majority of people who live here want Northern Ireland to keep moving forward.”

Lord Morrow said the past few weeks had been “difficult for the party and mistakes have been made”.

“Now is the time to move forward in a spirit of humility and mindful that our focus must be on serving the people whom we represent,” the peer added.

“I look forward to the challenges of rebuilding and reconnecting in the time ahead.”

The leadership vacancy arose when Mr Poots resigned after just 21 days in the position he took over from Arlene Foster.

Sir Jeffrey has already outlined his priorities and has said the number one issue is the dealing with the post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, known as the Protocol.

“If elected, I will ensure that the government doesn’t just listen but recognises the need to take decisive action to deal quickly with the protocol,” he said on Monday.

He has also insisted he is the right person to lead the party to victory at the next assembly election.

Edwin Poots

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Mr Poots’ resignation came after he agreed a deal with Sinn Féin and the Westminster government to ensure Paul Givan became Northern Ireland’s first minister.

A majority of DUP members in the Stormont assembly wanted to delay that process and Mr Poots faced an internal revolt at a party meeting.

A vote which took place at the meeting saw the vast majority of DUP representatives present oppose Mr Poots nominating Mr Givan as first minister.

Mr Poots was then summoned to a meeting of DUP officers on Thursday evening, after which he announced his resignation.

Paul Givan

image copyrightLiam McBurney/PA Wire

Speaking in an interview with Sky News on Monday, Mr Poots said: “There was a section in the party that struggled to accept that I won the election, that I won it democratically, I won it fairly.

“That’s how things are now, that I’ve been forced into a resignation.”

Asked if he would turn the clock back six weeks to before the leadership battle began if he could, he replied: “Yes, I would and perhaps I would wish that some others would turn the clock back six weeks as well and done things a bit differently.

“In terms of the support I received, it didn’t come from people that it should have and that’s just a reality that everybody knows.”

Mr Poots said he had not yet been asked to support anyone for the leadership and would “hold off” at this stage.

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Sir Jeffrey, born in Kilkeel, County Down, became politically active as a constituency agent for the South Down MP Enoch Powell in the mid-1980s before working as a personal assistant to the former Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader James Molyneaux.

After James Molyneaux retired as an MP in 1997, Sir Jeffrey was voted as his successor as MP for Lagan Valley, retaining the seat through six subsequent elections.

He is a member of the Orange Order and also served as a corporal in the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) during the Troubles.

In 2003, following long-standing opposition to the Good Friday Agreement and the leadership of David Trimble, he announced he would leave the UUP, later joining the DUP, along with Arlene Foster and Norah Beare.

He was appointed to the Privy Council, a body which advises the monarchy, in 2007 and stood down as an MLA for Lagan Valley in 2010.

He was awarded a knighthood in 2016 for political service.

Sir Jeffrey was defeated by 19 votes to 17 in the DUP leadership election to succeed Arlene Foster in May.

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