Sir Jeffrey Donaldson: Claim that David Trimble ‘faced down IRA’ while DUP was bystander ‘utter nonsense’

Sir 'Jeffrey Donaldson MP pictured speaking at the 2018 DUP Annual Conference at the Crown Plaza hotel in Belfast. Pic by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
Sir 'Jeffrey Donaldson MP pictured speaking at the 2018 DUP Annual Conference at the Crown Plaza hotel in Belfast. Pic by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

A Northern Ireland MP has reacted angrily to a London-based journalist’s assertion that former UUP leader David Trimble “faced down the IRA” while the DUP “stayed in their comfort zone and called him a traitor”.

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson branded the claim made by The Times journalist Marcus Leroux “utter nonsense”.

Commenting on Twitter about an article on The Telegraph website headlined ‘The DUP faced down the IRA – they aren’t going to crumble before Theresa May’, Mr Leroux wrote: “Quick fact check: David Trimble faced down the IRA, while the DUP stayed in their comfort zone and called him a traitor.”

With some reacting angrily to his tweet, Mr Leroux posted: “I’d never downplay the horror Nigel Dodds, Arlene Foster and other DUP figures suffered at the IRA’s hands. But the DUP as a party did not help bring about the end of the IRA as we knew it.”

Mr Donaldson, who served in the Ulster Defence Regiment, hit back: “What utter nonsense. Some of us put on a uniform of the crown to protect the community from the IRA threat and if you suggest this made no contribution to peace then you dishonour every man and woman who did so. The idea that one man or party alone faced the IRA down is wrong.”

Mr Leroux responded: “I think that’s a bit of a non-sequitur, Jeffrey. I’m talking about the DUP’s policy towards the process that ended IRA violence. It’s telling that you adduced in your defence what DUP people did outside the DUP.”

The Lagan Valley MP replied: “No I am merely pointing out that your broad sweeping claim that one man or party faced down the IRA is the stuff of fiction & that delivering an end to IRA violence was the culmination of much effort and much sacrifice by many people. Please don’t rewrite history like Sinn Fein.”

Bringing an end to the Twitter exchange, Mr Leroux concluded: “In that case we can both agree that the original headline – The DUP faced down the IRA – was incorrect.”

Responding to another Twitter user’s reminder that both Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds were directly impacted by terrorism, Mr Leroux said: “What they personally suffered does not change the fact that the DUP was a bystander – worse, in fact – in the negotiations that ended large scale IRA violence.”