Jeffrey Donaldson quits as DUP chief in bombshell for Northern Ireland

DUBLIN — Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, resigned Friday after being charged by police — a political shock that could destabilize Northern Ireland’s just-revived government.

Donaldson, 61, was arrested Thursday and charged Thursday night. Police provided no detail of the charges beyond describing them as of “a historical nature,” meaning the alleged offenses were not committed recently.

The DUP said in a statement that Donaldson had resigned as party leader “with immediate effect,” ending his nearly three-year reign atop Northern Ireland’s main pro-British party. It said Donaldson had confirmed the charges against him in a letter to the party’s chairman.

The DUP’s deputy leader, East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson, has been appointed interim leader pending a potential leadership contest. A contest could reopen the DUP’s divisions over reviving Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government with Sinn Féin.

Only last month, Donaldson overcame internal opposition to restore the cross-community government at Stormont following a two-year shutdown in protest over post-Brexit trading rules for Northern Ireland.

He ensured that his hand-picked choice, Emma Little-Pengelly, became the DUP’s deputy first minister in the revived administration, alongside Sinn Féin First Minister Michelle O’Neill.