‘I have the vision to lead unionism into its second century’ - Donaldson
The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster in the world of politics.
Last month Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson narrowly lost the DUP leadership election to fellow Lagan Valley rival Edwin Poots
However, just a few weeks later Mr Poots was forced to resign and a second leadership contest began.
As the only valid nominee for the top post, Sir Jeffrey has now been crowned the victor and, once ratified by the Party Executive, he will take over the reigns of the DUP.
Speaking to the Star after his appointment this week, Sir Jeffrey said: “Obviously I am delighted to be in a position where, subject to ratification by the Party Executive, I will have the opportunity to become the next Party Leader.
“I recognise the challenges that come with this and the need to rebuild and unite the Party in preparation for the forthcoming Assembly elections next May but I believe I am up to the task.
“I want to provide leadership and stability, not only for the Party but for Northern Ireland.
“As we move into a second century in Northern Ireland, I will be outlining my vision for the future which will be Northern Ireland remaining in the UK.
“The first priority is to address the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol. I will be speaking with the Prime Minister at the earliest opportunity to emphasise that it is not realistic to expect stability when every unionist representative in the devolved institutions opposes the Northern Ireland protocol.
“The government and those who claim to be protectors of peace and stability, must step up and deal with the protocol in a manner which respects the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom. I will play my part but the government and Brussels must step up and recognise the flaws of the protocol and how it was foisted upon Northern Ireland.
“Now, more than ever, we need to unite in the face of the threats posed to Northern Ireland by the protocol,” he continued.
“Make no mistake, this is the number one issue facing our country, our people and our place within the United Kingdom.
“A failure to act will undoubtedly have consequences for the stability of our political institutions and the prosperity of our economy.”
Sir Jeffrey said that as well as tackling the NI Protocol, there were a number of issues that needed urgent attention. “In Northern Ireland I want to ensure we have stability in our political institutions and deal with difficult issues such as investment and reform of the health service and the education system and help the economy recover from what has been a very difficult period during the pandemic.”
Sir Jeffrey has said he will remain as MP for Lagan Valley for the time being but may take a seat in the Assembly at some stage. “In terms of my own position I hope to contest the next Assembly election but I would consider returning earlier if a seat became available to take on the role of First Minister as I believe the Party should be led from the front but I take nothing for granted.
“I believe we can deliver for Northern Ireland and will work hard to unite the Party around a vision for the future.
“I will be consulting with my colleagues about the next steps in terms of my position and will come to a decision about my role at Westminster but I haven’t made any decisions yet.
“Whatever happens, I will continue for the meantime to work as a local MP and represent all the people of my constituency to the best of my ability and I want to continue doing that in the future.
“I very much see my future as being a representative of the people of Lagan Valley, which is a constituency that has been a great privilege to represent for many years.”
Acknowledging the enormous task that lies ahead of him, Sir Jeffrey said: “The task ahead is great.
“I do not underestimate the challenge, but I know the overwhelming majority of people who live here want Northern Ireland to keep moving forward.
“I have the vision to lead unionism into its second century, by embracing those who believe in a Northern Ireland where people of all identities and none can live, work and raise their family.”