Sir Jeffrey Donaldson intends to stand in Assembly election for Lagan Valley
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said he intends to run as a candidate in Lagan Valley in next year’s Assembly elections, if a seat does not become available before then.
The decision could see the current Lagan Valley MP running to become a Stormont MLA in the same constituency as the man he replaced as party leader, Edwin Poots, as well as the man he intends to replace as First Minister, Paul Givan.
The DUP currently holds two seats in Lagan Valley at Stormont.
Sir Jeffrey told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme: “I intend to stand in the Assembly elections if I am unable to return to the Assembly before that.
“I will be leading the DUP team into the Assembly elections. as I have stated before.”
Asked if he would run in Lagan Valley, Sir Jeffrey said: “Well, that is my intention. I am the Member of Parliament for Lagan Valley, that is the constituency that I represent.
“In the last Assembly elections I think we were about 400 votes shy of winning three seats in Lagan Valley, and we will be setting ourselves a target to win seats in the Assembly elections because it is absolutely crucial for unionism that we win the election.”
He said he would be confident the party could win three seats meaning Paul Givan and Edwin Poots could retain theirs.
He said: “My MLA team is fully behind me as leader and that is evident from contacts I have had with them and meetings we have had.
“Things are settled down now in the party. We are now focused on the job at hand which includes tackling the NI Protocol and dealing with the legacy of our troubled past.
“Of course it is a big ask to ask an MLA to step aside... the MLAs are elected by their constituents, they have a mandate to continue in their role until the next Assembly election.
“It is only for circumstances such as personal reasons they may wish to step down before the election that a vacancy would arise.
Sir Jeffrey would not rule out taking Arlene Foster’s Fermanagh seat should she step down before the election.
“In Arlene’s case, she continues as an MLA, she is a much-valued member of our Assembly team. I don’t know at this stage if Arlene would be stepping down in advance of the election.
Sir Jeffrey also said he will use time he has set aside for parliament to work as a trade envoy for the UK government to Cameroon.
Sir Jeffrey was appointed to the Cameroon trade role on Monday. It is in addition to his role as a trade envoy to Egypt.
The Lagan Valley MP said he thought the reason he had been handed the role was after the success in securing trade with Egypt.
Sir Jeffrey said his priority remained the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He added he would occasionally visit Cameroon although most work was based in the UK.