Donaldson and colleagues formally join DUP
Former Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson today confirmed
his defection to the Ian Paisley's ultra-hardline DUP.
Mr Donaldson and two other former Ulster Unionist Assembly
Members, Ms Arlene Foster and Ms Norah Beare, quit the party
Mr Donaldson and his two followers appeared alongside the
current-30-strong DUP assembly team at a press conference
They announced that they had decided to join the DUP after
receiving an invitation to join Mr Paisley's negotiating team
for the forthcoming review of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Paisley welcomed the defections and claimed could mark the
start of an exodus from the Ulster Unionist Party into his
"I bid them welcome to the DUP," Mr Paisley said.
"I believe this is the beginning of large numbers of people
who always voted Official Unionist who are now going to join
"I hope to shortly announce a recruiting drive across the
province so we can enlarge our party and prepare for what is
coming in the days of the negotiations."
Mr Donaldson today launched an attack on his former leader,
David Trimble, and his supporters, claiming they had abandoned
core unionist principles.
"I am proud to be part of a team capable of providing
leadership to the unionist community, not like the leadership
of the party I left.
"Not like a leadership which has no bottom line, a leadership
which does not know how to lead the unionist community."
Mrs Foster claimed the DUP was now the mainstream unionist
party in Northern Ireland.
She insisted: "There is no fight left in the UUP."
The defections mean the DUP, which claims the Good Friday
Agreement is finished, now has 33 seats at the putative
Belfast Assembly and also becomes the largest unionist party
at the Westminster parliament in London.
However, some believe the increase in DUP strength could
benefit the peace process by making the party reluctant to
face the electorate again should the review fail to find a
formula for the Assembly's restoration.
Mr Donaldson walked out of negotiations shortly before the
Good Friday Agreement was concluded in 1998 and he claims he
voted 'No' in the subsequent referendum.
He has generally opposed Mr David Trimble's policy ever since,
but it took almost six years before the split became serious
enough for Donaldson -- once considered a possible leader of
the Ulster Unionists -- to resign from the party.