Editorial: Amid the shock over the downfall of Jeffrey Donaldson, the governance of Northern Ireland must go on

News Letter editorial on Saturday March 30 2024:
Morning ViewMorning View
Morning View

Northern Ireland was in shock yesterday after news of the arrest and charge of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

​The legal process will know take its course and the DUP leader will appear in court next month. He is innocent until proven otherwise.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The deputy, and now interim, leader of the DUP Gavin Robinson MP made clear his party’s support for the rule of law and the legal process. What a contrast to the reaction of republicans on the rare occasions that Sinn Fein politicians have been so much as questioned.

The arrest will raise immediate questions about the stability of Stormont, but that is not necessarily its main political impact: Sir Jeffrey, like Mr Robinson, is not part of the Stormont legislature so his departure will not affect it.

However, there is immediate uncertainty as to the Lagan Valley seat for Westminster, which will be filled by a new MP either in a by-election or in the coming general election, and that will have implications for the ministries in the assembly – where there is hardly a large pool of obvious candidates for top posts if someone such as Emma Little-Pengelly is chosen for that constituency.

There is also now likely to be greater unease about the agreement to restore devolution, which was in any event the subject of growing concern, amid evidence of the barrier such as the EU metal dental fillings ban or the hotel room bottle shampoo ban. They have been reminders that the border is not just about checks but about the EU laws and rules that prevail.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

For now, however, the criminal justice system is in motion examining very serious charges of sexual offence, and – amid all the astonishment – normal and sensible politics is needed. MLAs have in a small number of weeks already shown a complete unreality about finances. There are huge policy matters to resolve that are greater than any one politician.