Northern Ireland MP's Arrest for Sex Crimes a 'Big Shock'

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, member of UK House of Commons, resigns as DUP leader
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2024 1:07 PM CDT
Northern Ireland MP's Arrest for Sex Crimes a 'Big Shock'
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, MP, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), speaks outside Brownlow House following a meeting of the DUP's ruling executive in Lurgan, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023.   (Brian Lawless/PA via AP)

Good Friday was not great for the UK's longest-serving MP from Northern Ireland who resigned as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party following his arrest for alleged sex offenses. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson's social media accounts vanished hours before police announced a 61-year-old male had been charged with "non-recent sexual offences," per the BBC. Shortly after, the DUP said Donaldson had confirmed he was charged "with allegations of an historical nature," stepped down as leader, and been replaced by deputy leader Gavin Robinson. "In accordance with the Party Rules, the Party Officers have suspended Mr. Donaldson from membership, pending the outcome of a judicial process," the DUP said.

Donaldson, the Lagan Valley MP and a married father of two, was arrested and charged Thursday alongside a 57-year-old woman who is accused of "aiding and abetting additional offences," per the BBC and Guardian. No more has been said about the alleged crimes. Both individuals are due in court April 24. Then a member of the Ulster Unionist Party, Donaldson became the youngest person elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1985 at age 22, per the Telegraph. He was first elected to the UK House of Commons in 1997 before joining the DUP in 2003. He was awarded knighthood for political service in 2016 and became the party leader in 2021.

His arrest came only "weeks after one of the most significant decisions of [Donaldson's] career when he chose to bring his party back to power sharing," per the Telegraph. Since 2022, the DUP had boycotted Northern Ireland's political institutions in protest of post-Brexit checks on goods moving between the UK and Northern Ireland. But Donaldson helped negotiate a deal that restored the government, with an Irish nationalist at its head, causing "deep divisions within the ranks of the DUP," per the New York Times. Tory MP Julian Smith said he didn't expect "any change in the momentum behind power sharing" following Donaldson's resignation, which came "a big shock to everybody," per the Telegraph. (More United Kingdom stories.)

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