First Minister Donaldson?
It looks likely now that Peter Robinson will have to resign as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and as First Minister of Northern Ireland. SDLP leader Mark Durkan suggested as much this on Morning Ireland today, and given the cover-up for ten months of his wife’s inappropriate financial dealings, this seems a reasonable assessment. That they are both MPs makes his position more politically unviable. Even if Mr Robinson were cleared of any wrongdoing, it would be difficult to continue to govern while such suspicions remained.
My own clear preference for his successor is Jeffrey Donaldson. He was first elected as MP for Lagan Valley in 1997 for the Ulster Unionist Party. He opposed the Belfast Agreement, against the will of then party leader David Trimble. After the 2003 Assembly election, he eventually left the UUP, and soon joined the DUP.
I had presumed that he might be close-minded, and was surprised and encouraged when I heard him speak in person for the first time. It was a debate of the Hist, Trinity College’s debating society, in October 2005, with the motion That Unionists have been let down by the process. Despite the favourable wording from his point of view, he gave quite a conciliatory speech, in which he apologized on behalf of the Protestant community in Northern Ireland for the wrongdoing and discrimination against Roman Catholics. He spoke twice more in the Hist since then, was always warm when meeting students in the college, and has appeared a number of times on Questions and Answers and other programs, showing a genuine interest in engaging with those south of the border.
While Nigel Dodds is the party’s Deputy Leader, we would have much more to hope for from Jeffrey Donaldson, and he do hope there is a contest for the position.