Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has declared his candidacy for the head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and has said he will seek to unite trade unionists in Northern Ireland in a campaign against the Irish Sea border.
The Lagan Valley MP made the announcement on Monday, confirming his status as frontrunner to replace Edwin Poots, a short-lived leader who resigned last week after an internal uprising.
Donaldson said he would work to restore confidence and faith in the DUP, which is reeling from internal struggles, and to reach out to other trade unionists.
“Now, more than ever, we must unite in the face of the threats posed to Northern Ireland by the protocol. Make no mistake, this is the number one issue facing our country, our people and our place in the UK. “
If no other candidate comes forward – nominations close on Tuesday – Donaldson is expected to be crowned leader of Northern Ireland’s biggest party on Saturday.
Donaldson defined Labor as the main opposition to post-Brexit controls on goods traveling to Northern Ireland from Britain, which some trade unionists see as a threat to the region’s economy and British identity. .
“If I am elected, I will ensure that the government does not just listen, but recognizes the need to take decisive action to quickly deal with the protocol. Inaction will undoubtedly have consequences for the stability of our political institutions and the prosperity of our economy.
The declaration did not call for the abolition of the protocol, unlike other Unionist and loyalist leaders. Nor has he threatened to overthrow Northern Ireland’s power-sharing assembly, which some trade unionists say is the only way to get concessions from the UK government and the European Commission.
The DUP’s convulsions destabilized Stormont’s assembly and executive and raised the prospect of early elections. A Donaldson coronation could calm the region’s feverish political mood, at least in the short term.
Arlene Foster resigned as leader of the DUP party after a coup in April fueled by popular anger at the maritime border.
Poots, an agriculture minister from Stormont, narrowly beat Donaldson in a two-horse succession race last month. After just 21 days on the job, Poots resigned his post as party leader last week after a party revolt against a deal on Irish language legislation, which his colleagues saw as a victory for Sinn Féin.
The rebellion also undermined Poots’ protégé Paul Givan, just hours after Givan’s appointment as prime minister. The DUP would like Givan to step down once a new leader is elected.
Before taking the post of prime minister, Donaldson is expected to resign his seat in Westminster and be elected to Stormont, a process that could take months. In the meantime, he could nominate a party colleague to replace Givan.
Donaldson, 58, is considered a relatively moderate within the DUP. He began his political career in the Ulster Unionist Party as an assistant to Enoch Powell and then defected from the DUP to protest the concessions to the Nationalists in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. became a deputy, his image softened.