DUP ‘to shortly announce’ election candidate for Jeffrey Donaldson’s seat

Former leader Donaldson, facing charges of historical sexual offences that he denies, will not seek re-election in the Lagan Valley seat

The DUP will shortly announce its general election candidate for the Lagan Valley seat currently held by former party leader Jeffrey Donaldson, a party MP has said.

The Northern Ireland parties are gearing up for an election after the surprise announcement by British prime minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday that the country’s general election will take place on July 4th.

The DUP faces a choice over which candidate to run in Lagan Valley after Mr Donaldson, a former party leader and long-time MP, was charged with a series of historical sexual offences – charges he denies. He will not seek re-election.

Gregory Campbell, the DUP’s East Londonderry MP, said: “We haven’t completed our selection of candidates [across constituencies] yet. We will be doing that in the next few days and Lagan Valley will be included in that.”


He added: “We have a number of very good candidates and I think our party leader [Gavin Robinson] would be describing all of them as very suitably qualified.”

Two of the unionist party’s most high profile MLAs – Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly and Education Minister Paul Givan – represent the constituency.

It is anticipated that the DUP will face a stiff challenge from the Alliance Party’s Sorcha Eastwood in Lagan Valley.

The Alliance Party said a decision will be made within days on whether leader Naomi Long would challenge the DUP’s Mr Robinson in East Belfast.

Sinn Féin has emerged as the largest party in the Assembly and local council elections in the last two years and will be hoping to repeat that success again.

The party won seven seats at the last election, compared with eight for the DUP, the largest unionist party.

Sinn Féin’s North Belfast MP John Finucane told the BBC Good Morning Ulster programme: “First and foremost we want to retain the seven seats that we have and in other constituencies we want to grow our vote. We want to increase our mandate.”

Mr Finucane said one of his party’s main election themes would be the need to address the underfunding of public services in Northern Ireland.

He said: “We will be consistent in our calls to highlight the underfunding that we have faced which has completely restricted our ability to have proper public services.”

The Alliance Party’s North Down MP Stephen Farry said a successful election for Alliance would send the message that Northern Ireland is “moving away from the politics of green versus orange”.

Mr Farry said the party would make clear in the coming days if leader Ms Long would be challenging Mr Robinson in East Belfast, a seat she previously held.

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie confirmed he would run a candidate in all 18 Northern Ireland constituencies and was not considering pacts with other unionist parties.

He added: “We speak to other unionist parties on a variety of issues but I have also made it clear I am not somebody who does pacts work.”

The SDLP is hoping to hold on to its seats in Foyle and South Belfast. Party leader Colum Eastwood conceded he would face a “tough fight” from Sinn Féin in Foyle.

He added: “The real fight here is to get rid of the Tories. We have had 14 years of these people destroying our economy, doing Brexit, bringing in the Legacy Act, stripping our public services of funding.

“Now there is an opportunity to get rid of them.” – PA