ELECTION 2022: WATCH – DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says unionism cannot afford to stay divided

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has talked up the need for a united unionist front following his large-scale victory in Lagan Valley.

The DUP MP took the seat with over 12,000 votes – a huge margin (full story here).

Mr Donaldson made the remarks in the immediate wake of his victory at the Ulster University Jordanstown campus.

Whilst the success in Lagan Valley will buoy the DUP leader, it comes against a backdrop of forboding in the party, with its vote share widely expected to be significantly down on 2017 – leaving Sinn Fein the likely largest party.

PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 6/5/2022: An unhappy looking DUP leader, Jeffrey Donaldson with former First Minister, Paul Givan and MP, Ian Paisley at the election count for the North, South and East Antrim constituencies plus Lagan Valley and North Down in Jordanstown. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

He said: “I think one of the key messages for me coming out of this election is that unionism simply can’t afford the divisions that exist.

“There are seats that may be lost in this election because of unionist divisions, despite... the common ground we share – whether it is in our passionate belief in the Union as the best way forward for everyone in Northern Ireland, or our opposition to the Irish Sea border.”

He also re-stated his insistence that the party cannot re-enter Stormont so long as the Protocol remains intact.

His remarks closely echo those of top DUP figure Mervyn Storey to the News Letter a couple of hours earlier.