MP RULES HIMSELF OUT OF ASSEMBLY ELECTION - THIS TIME
Jeffrey Donaldson - 'honouring pledge I gave to the people of Lagan Valley before Westminster election
LAGAN Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson has revealed he will not be running for the assembly in May's election.
In a statement to the Star, he ended speculation that he would allow his name to go forward as a DUP candidate and said he was honouring the pledge he gave to the electorate when he was re-elected to Westminster last year.
"Before the General Election I gave a commitment to the people of Lagan Valley that I intended to step down from the Northern Ireland Assembly and to concentrate on my role as the local Member of Parliament" Mr Donaldson said.
"I have honoured that commitment and am delighted that my successor Paul Givan has made a significant impact in the Assembly already and is a very worthy replacement. He has strengthened an already robust DUP team in Lagan Valley and together with Edwin Poots and Jonathan Craig provides a high profile and proactive representation for the people of this constituency.
"In coming to my decision, I wanted to keep my word to the people of Lagan Valley and at the same time make way for new people to take on the role of local representation.
"As a member of the Privy Council, the Defence Select Committee and the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, I am ensuring that Lagan Valley and Northern Ireland's interests are being looked after in Parliament and beyond. That is a big responsibility and one that requires my full attention at this time."
It is believed there were many in the party who were keen to see their top voter catcher run since boundary changes have raised unionist hopes of capturing an extra seat in May.
And Mr Donaldson confirmed that while he will not be one of them, the DUP will be fielding four candidates.
"It is our firm belief that unionism can secure an extra seat and topple Sinn Fein in this constituency" he said.
"I note Paul Butler's (sitting Sinn Fein MLA) decision not to stand again and this is a clear sign that Sinn Fein is throwing in the towel before the fight begins. I believe the DUP can win that extra seat for the unionist cause which would help to ensure that Sinn Fein do not emerge as the largest party in the Assembly. Only the DUP can prevent this from happening.
"The Party will shortly announce our team of candidates for Lagan Valley and I am confident that all four can be returned to the Assembly."
However, Mr Donaldson also made it clear he has not ruled out returning to the assembly at a later date.
"Stormont has not heard the last of Jeffrey Donaldson and it is my intention to return to the Assembly at some stage in the future to continue the work there and to help build a better future for everyone in Northern Ireland" he said.
"I am convinced that the political process needs to be strengthened and the progress that has been made needs to be built upon. "We cannot afford to let Northern Ireland slip back to the dark days of the past. In Lagan Valley we must return people to Stormont who will work positively for this community and ensure that Northern Ireland keeps moving forward."