Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is set to become the new leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) as no other contenders came forward before today’s deadline of 12 noon.
The leadership is up for grabs after Edwin Poots announced on June 17 that he was stepping down roughly a month after he became the party’s leader.
The DUP announced on June 19 that nominations for the leadership position had to be submitted by 12 noon today, June 22, and that a meeting to elect a new leader will be held on June 26.
With no other contenders, Donaldson, MP for Lagan Valley since 1997, is set to become the next head of the DUP.
It's a dramatic turn of events Donaldson and Poots were the two contenders for the leadership of the DUP in the wake of Arlene Foster’s resignation as party leader which she announced on April 28. On May 14, Poots narrowly succeeded Donaldson to become the leader of the DUP with a final vote of 19 to 17.
Today, June 22, DUP Chairman Lord Morrow confirmed that he had received only one valid nomination for the party’s leadership.
“Following the completion of our party processes, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP will be the next leader of the Democratic Unionist Party," Morrow said in his statement.
He added: “The last number of weeks has been difficult for the Party and mistakes have been made. Now is the time to move forward in a spirit of humility and mindful that our focus must be on serving the people whom we represent.
“I look forward to the challenges of rebuilding and reconnecting in the time ahead.”
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP said: “The task ahead is great. I do not underestimate the challenge, but I know the overwhelming majority of people who live here want Northern Ireland to keep moving forward.
“I have the vision to lead unionism into its second century, by embracing those who believe in a Northern Ireland where people of all identities and none can live, work and raise their family.
"I have the vision to unite Northern Ireland and heal the divisions of the past. We don’t move forward by ignoring our past but by remembering and learning.
“I have the vision to lead a Democratic Unionist team who will inspire and command the confidence of those we are privileged to represent.
“The Northern Ireland Assembly is the place where every element of our society is represented. The coalition government is unwieldy, but it ensures every voice is heard.
“Such partnership is how we should move forward. It must be based on respect for each other’s mandate.
“To that end, I will be speaking with the Prime Minister at the earliest opportunity to emphasise that it is not realistic to expect stability when every unionist representative in the devolved institutions opposes the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“The Government and those who claim to be protectors of peace and stability, must step up and deal with the Protocol in a manner which respects the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.
“I want to bring stability and encourage everyone to focus on what unites us as a people rather than on what divides us. There has been too much focus on division and recrimination both within unionism and within Northern Ireland.
“I will play my part but the Government and Brussels must step up and recognise the flaws of the Protocol and how it was foisted upon Northern Ireland.”
The current First Minister of Northern Ireland, DUP's Paul Givan, who was installed on June 17 just hours before Edwin Poots resigned, has reportedly been told that he must resign from his role of First Minister in light of the leadership transition.