Northern Ireland

Donaldson: Leaders need to be courageous in making decisions

The DUP leader revealed last week that he had been threatened.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson
Stormont Assembly DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (Liam McBurney/PA)

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said leaders need to be courageous in decision-making as he announced that his party is preparing to return to Stormont.

The DUP leader has faced pressure from other parties and the Government to end its two-year Stormont blockade, while simultaneously dealing with criticism from some unionists unhappy with the prospect of returning to the powersharing institutions.

Last week, Sir Jeffrey told MPs that he had been personally threatened for his efforts to negotiate a deal to restore the Assembly. His party confirmed the police have been informed.

He also faced opposition from some within his own party who still have concerns about post-Brexit trading barriers.

DUP leader Sir Jeffery Donaldson MP during the press conference
Stormont Talks DUP leader Sir Jeffery Donaldson MP during the press conference (Liam McBurney)

The announcement that the DUP would drop the blockade on devolution, once the Government implemented the various legislative assurances and other measures it has offered his party, followed a five-hour meeting of his party executive late on Monday.

When asked if it had been the most stressful week of his political career, Sir Jeffrey referenced his time in the Ulster Unionist Party.

He said: “I think in truth I have had other times in my political career going back to meetings of the Ulster Unionist council and so on where you might say there was a familiar scenario that we had to deal with – and we dealt with it.”

The current DUP leader was a senior member of the Ulster Unionists’ negotiating delegation in 1998 when the Good Friday Agreement was struck.

Hours before the historic accord was agreed, the Lagan Valley MP famously left Castle Buildings at Stormont in protest at what his party was about to sign up to.

He eventually left the party and joined the DUP in 2003.

He added: “When you are in leadership, sometimes that can be a lonely place. When you are in leadership you’ve got to step out and step up.

“You have got to make decisions based on what you believe is right and yes, you’ve got to display courage.

“There isn’t much courage in hiding behind threats.”

He added: “I think my party has displayed far more courage than those who threaten or try to bully or try to misrepresent us.

“We are determined to take our place in taking Northern Ireland forward.

“I don’t worry about the stress, I am focused on what we need to achieve and I believe that my party, in acting decisively as it has done this evening, is taking strides towards building a better Northern Ireland and a better future for all of us.”