Flash: Jeffrey Donaldson resigns amid sex charges scandal
Flash: Jeffrey Donaldson resigns amid sex charges scandal

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Jeffrey Donaldson has stepped down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party with immediate effect after he was charged with “historical” sexual offences.

In a statement, the DUP said Donaldson has been suspended from membership “pending the outcome of a judicial process”.

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson MP was named as the interim party leader.

The development followed speculation on social media in regard to an unidentified County Down couple who were charged with sex offences against two children on Thursday night.

The PSNI said they had arrived shortly after 6am on Thursday morning with an arrest warrant for each of them. One of the accused was charged with more than 10 alleged offences and the other with three. The male is facing one charge of rape and has been accused of a number of other sexual offences, including historical gross indecency.

His wife is facing a number of charges relating to the alleged offences faced by her husband including aiding and abetting. They have beeen charged to appear at Newry Magistrates’ Court on April 24.

They are subject to bail conditions including an order barring them from residing in the same property and from leaving British jurisdiction.

Donaldson’s social media accounts were deleted overnight and he was reportedly spotted flying out from Belfast this morning. He has led the party since 2021, but has been an MP since 1997.

It is believed the development could lead to a by-election in his Lagan Valley constituency within weeks.

Prior to joining the DUP, he was part of the Ulster Unionist Party’s delegation to negotiate the Good Friday Peace agreement, which he opposed.

He recently oversaw the delivery of significant concessions in Brexit negotiations with the British government, extracted by the DUP in returning for the party ending its boycott of the Stormont Executive in Belfast.

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