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Home / News / Donaldson resignation political bombshell out of the blue

Donaldson resignation political bombshell out of the blue

This is a political earthquake that came out of the blue.

The first tremors were felt early this morning when it was noted that all of Jeffrey Donaldson’s social media accounts had been deactivated.

When contacted, a number of DUP sources said they had been trying to reach their party leader since yesterday afternoon but could not do so.

It was noted that the PSNI had issued a statement saying a 61-year-old man had been arrested and charged with historical sexual offences.

The same age as the DUP leader.

Speculation about a major development began to swirl.

Then news came of an emergency meeting of its ruling party officer team at 10am.

A small number of senior members were told about what was going to unfold last night.

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They were said to have been in a state of shock and disbelief.

The mood at party headquarters in east Belfast was said to be one of deep gloom.

A statement was issued shortly before 1pm confirming a political earthquake.

It said the party chairman had received a letter from Jeffrey Donaldson confirming that he has been charged with allegations of a historical nature and indicating that he is stepping down as leader of the DUP with immediate effect.

The statement added that in accordance with the party rules, Mr Donaldson “has been suspended from membership pending the outcome of a judicial process”.

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson, who had been deputy leader, has been appointed as interim party leader.

It is not yet clear if Mr Donaldson intends to also resign as the MP for Lagan Valley, but he will be under huge pressure to do so.

It genuinely was a political bombshell.

The party is currently on the verge of meltdown.

There will now have to be a leadership contest and a by-election in Lagan Valley could put the party’s seat there in serious jeopardy.

And what now for the future of the devolved institutions at Stormont?

The decision to return to power-sharing and end the DUP’s two-year boycott was personally driven by Mr Donaldson.

He pushed it through the party officer team and executive with what is believed to have been a majority of around 60-40.

A leadership contest could potentially reopen the internal debate about the decision to return to devolution.

The signs at this stage are that the next leader is likely to be someone from within the “yes” camp, interim leader Gavin Robinson or possibly former first minister Paul Givan, who is the current Education Minister.

There is no sense at this point that this earthquake within the DUP will weaken the foundations of Stormont, but there could be some fault lines.

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