Democratic Unionist Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson. File

Democratic Unionist Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson. File
| Photo Credit: AP

The leader of Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party has stepped down after being charged with allegations of a historic nature, the party said in a statement on Friday.

Jeffrey Donaldson left his post with immediate effect pending the outcome of the judicial process, the Democratic Unionist Party said. In accordance with the party rules, it has suspended him from membership.

Gavin Robinson, the member of Parliament for Belfast East, was named interim party leader.

The shock resignation came soon after several of Donaldson’s social media accounts were abruptly deleted.

Last month, Donaldson brokered a deal with the UK government that enabled the end of the DUP’s two-year boycott of the British region’s devolved powersharing assembly at Stormont.

He had been expected to lead his party into the next UK general election, expected later this year.

But numerous media outlets reported that the 61-year-old politician’s resignation was linked to a statement by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) reporting two arrests.

“A 61-year-old man has been charged in relation to non-recent sexual offences,” said a PSNI statement.

“A 57-year-old woman was also arrested and charged at the time for aiding and abetting additional offences.

“Both are due to appear before Newry Magistrates’ Court on 24 April,” it added.


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