Sunak says government will support Stormont

1 week ago 23

Stormont estateImage source, Getty/Stephen Barnes

By Jayne McCormack

BBC News NI political correspondent

The Stormont executive will have the government's "full support" to maintain stability, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said.

He was asked to comment amid upheaval in the DUP after the resignation of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson as party leader.

He stood down after he was charged with rape and other historical sexual offences - allegations he said he would strenuously contest.

Mr Sunak said he had worked "very hard" to restore the executive.

"I am reassured that everyone is committed to delivering that stability going forward," he said.

He added that he looked forward to working with Gavin Robinson, who has become the interim DUP leader.

He said he had worked with the East Belfast MP in the past.

"People in Northern Ireland have waited a long time to have the executive back up and running, it's important they continue to do so, and they'll have our full support."

Image source, Getty/Bloomberg

Image caption,

Rishi Sunak, pictured in March says politicians will be given "full support" from Westminster

The first and deputy first ministers have also pledged to maintain stability in the wake of Sir Jeffrey's resignation on Friday.

First Minister Michelle O'Neill said the parties now had to "knuckle down" and "do the business of government".

The assembly and executive at Stormont were suspended for two years and only returned in February after the DUP ended its boycott - which it began in a row over post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland.

DUP assembly member and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly said on Saturday she was "determined" to do all she could to ensure political stability in the days ahead.

Mr Robinson has said the party's thoughts were with those who have "put their faith in the justice system".

On Friday, the DUP said Sir Jeffrey had confirmed he had been charged with historical allegations and was stepping down as leader.

The party's officers suspended him from membership, pending the outcome of the case.

Contesting charges

Sir Jeffrey's letter to the DUP said he would be strenuously contesting the charges.

He and the 57-year-old woman were both arrested on Thursday morning by PSNI detectives and were questioned before being charged on Thursday night.

He and the woman are due to appear in court in April.

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