CHARGED THEN STEPPED DOWN: DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson

BREAKING: DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson charged with historical sex offences

Northern Irish political titan Jeffrey Donaldson has stepped down as leader of the DUP just hours after it was revealed he had been charged with historical sexual offences.

The bombshell announcement has mammoth potential consequences for the DUP and the power sharing institutions in the North. Six weeks ago, Sir Jeffrey, MP from the city of Lisburn, Co Antrim, led his party back into the stalled political institutions at Stormont after a two-year hiatus.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

That decision won him plaudits in Washington D.C. over St Patrick's Day when he was guest of honor at a range of receptions and events, including President Biden's annual White House gathering. 

In a statement issued at 8:45am EST today, the DUP said: "The Party Chairman has received a letter from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP confirming that he has been charged with allegations of an historical nature and indicating that he is stepping down as Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party with immediate effect.

"In accordance with the Party Rules, the Party Officers have suspended Mr Donaldson from membership, pending the outcome of a judicial process.

"The Party Officers have this morning unanimously appointed Mr Gavin Robinson MP as the Interim Party Leader."

On Friday morning the PSNI issued a statement saying that a 61-year-old man had been charged with "non-recent sexual offences". It added that a 57-year-old woman was charged with "aiding and abetting additional offences".

The pair are to appear before Newry Magistrates' Court on 24 April.

Mr Donaldson's social media accounts, including Twitter, were deleted overnight.