Sir Jeffrey Donaldson ratified as DUP leader by party executive

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has been officially ratified as leader of the DUP after a meeting of the party’s ruling executive in Belfast.

The party’s 130-strong executive met at La Mon Hotel to approve the appointment of the Lagan Valley MP as their new leader.

Donaldson, the DUP’s 58-year-old Westminster leader, was the only candidate to put his name forward for the role after the dramatic resignation of Edwin Poots earlier this month.

Speaking after the meeting, he said the ratification had been unanimous. “There are many challenges ahead, but I am confident now that the DUP will face those challenges together,” he said. “I am confident that the party will now build towards the Assembly elections and I intend to work to ensure that once again the Democratic Unionist party prevails in the election.”

At the weekend, the MP secured the majority backing of the DUP’s electoral college of party MPs and MLAs, receiving support from 32 of the college’s 36 members.

Internal divisions within the DUP have been laid bare after successive revolts deposed former leader Arlene Foster and her successor, Poots. His demise came only weeks after he narrowly defeated Donaldson in the leadership contest to succeed Foster.

Poots’ resignation came after he pressed ahead with reconstituting Stormont’s power-sharing executive alongside Sinn Féin, despite a significant majority of his MPs and MLAs being vociferously opposed to the move.

Party anger at a UK government pledge to grant Sinn Féin a key concession on Irish language laws was behind the internal opposition to Poots’ decision to nominate a first minister to lead the administration alongside the republican party.

Donaldson has made clear his intention to return from Westminster to assume the first minister’s job at Stormont.

However, the timeline for that move remains unclear. He would have to trigger a parliamentary byelection in Lagan Valley in order to re-enter the assembly, and it is unclear whether he would want to prompt such a contest in the near future, given the DUP’s recent poor poll ratings.

Donaldson is due to make his first keynote speech as party leader on Thursday.


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