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NI deputy first minister says ‘victims must always have best opportunity for justice’ after DUP leader quits

todayMarch 30, 2024 3

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NI deputy first minister says ‘victims must always have best opportunity for justice’ after DUP leader quits

Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister Emma Little-Pengelly has said “victims must always have the best opportunity for justice” after the leader of her party resigned over allegations of historical sexual offences.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson stepped down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on Friday.

Ms Little-Pengelly said she was “shocked and devastated” by the news of the charges against him.

She added: “Victims must always have the best opportunity for justice. This must be fully respected and supported.

“My thoughts are with those suffering who have put their faith in the criminal justice system.

“Protecting the integrity of that process necessitates significant restrictions on what can be said. I have faith in our justice system.”

Deputy first minister Emma Little-Pengelly. Pic: PA

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Emma Little-Pengelly, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister. Pic: PA

‘No threat’ to government in Northern Ireland

Ms Little-Pengelly went on to say that she was “determined” to work with the interim party leader Gavin Robinson to “provide stability” and continue “tackling the big issues faced by Northern Ireland”.

It is understood Donaldson will be “strenuously contesting” all charges against him.

Sinn Fein First Minister Michelle O’Neill, Ms Little-Pengelly’s Stormont counterpart, said all the party leaders share the view there is no threat to the powersharing institutions in Northern Ireland.

“The public here rightly deserve our newly formed executive to continue to deliver for them for now and into the future,” she told Sky News.

“My priority is to make that powersharing work, my priority is to work with the other political leaders around the executive table.

“That was why I thought it was important yesterday to reach out to each of the political leaders to talk about the need for cohesion, to talk about the need for leadership and to talk about the delivery that we now need to get on with in terms of the executive itself.”

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First minister on ‘difficult’ time for DUP

Donaldson due in court in April

Donaldson has led the DUP since 2021 and has been the MP for Lagan Valley since 1997.

The 61-year-old will appear in court in Newry, Co Down, on 24 April.

A 57-year-old woman has been charged with aiding and abetting offences in relation to the same police investigation.

Donaldson has been suspended by the party but it is understood he remains an MP.

Read more:
Who is Sir Jeffrey Donaldson?

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‘It’s been a devastating revelation,’ Gavin Robinson says

DUP ‘in turmoil’

Mr Robinson, who was deputy leader, has been appointed the DUP’s interim leader.

The party has been plunged into “turmoil” by Donaldson’s shock resignation, veteran DUP MP Sammy Wilson said, adding that its members were “gobsmacked” by what had happened.

“We were all shocked, this just came totally out of the blue,” he told Cool FM news.

“We found out about it, I think, just the night before. We called a meeting then first thing in the morning and all of us were kind of gobsmacked that this had happened because there was absolutely no indication that there was anything of this nature about to break.”

He added: “Any party which is hit with this kind of shock is bound to be in turmoil.”

Written by: Newsroom

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