Jeffrey Donaldson vows to raise NI Protocol with Boris Johnson and lead DUP into period of healing and unity
New DUP Leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said he will raise the NI Protocol with Boris Johnson at the earliest opportunity while vowing to work towards healing divisions internally and across society in the north. Mr Donaldson also committed himself to powersharing yesterday after he was confirmed as the only candidate for the leadership following the shock departures of Edwin Poots last week and Arlene Foster last month.
The Lagan Valley MP narrowly lost out to Edwin Poots in a leadership contest several weeks ago, but after Mr Poots’ resignation just three weeks into the leadership role on Thursday of last week, nominations were reopened for the top job.
It was confirmed yesterday that Mr Donaldson was the only candidate to be nominated for the position before the mid-day deadline on Tuesday.
In a recorded video message afterwards, he said: “The task ahead is great. I do not underestimate the challenge. But I know that 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 Northern Ireland - a place where people of all identities and none can live, work and raise their families.
“I have the vision to unite Northern Ireland and to heal the divisions of the past. We don’t move forward by ignoring the past but by remembering and learning from it.
“I have the vision to lead a strong, democratic unionist team who will inspire and command the confidence of those we are privileged to represent.
“The Northern Ireland Assembly is the place where every element of our society is represented. The coalition government is often unwieldy but it ensures that every voice is heard. Such partnership is how we must move forward - it must be based on respect for each other’s mandate.
“To that end I will be speaking to the Prime Minister at the earliest opportunity to emphasise that it is not realistic to expect stability in Northern Ireland when every unionist representative in the devolved institutions is strongly opposed to the NI Protocol.
“The government and those who claim to be the protectors of peace and stability here must step up and deal with the Protocol in a manner which respects the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK.
“I want to bring stability to NI and to encourage everyone to focus on what unites us as a people rather than what divides us. There has been too much focus on division and recrimination both within unionism and within Northern Ireland.
“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 on the people of Northern Ireland.”
Derry MP Colum Eastwood congratulated Jeffrey Donaldson on his appointment and urged parties should work together to address the challenges facing people here without threatening the institutions.
Colum Eastwood MP said: “There are significant challenges facing all of us, not least of all the crisis in our health service and the operation of the protocol. It is important that political leaders work together to address those challenges and deliver for the people we represent.
“The new DUP leader also needs to reflect on how we can all work together to mitigate the impact of Brexit. The current arrangements are a direct result of a series of disastrous decisions taken by his party. But we all have a duty now to address the challenges, press the advantages, and most of all to be honest with people. The best way to reduce the burden of checks at our ports is for the British Government to agree an SPS deal with the European Union. Anyone serious about addressing the situation knows that and will join us in seeking that sensible resolution.”