Loss of one of Unionism’s future leaders?

By Edward Ferrin- Deputy & Politics Editor

It is clear that the past few months have been really startling for the DUP and all of its support base – six opinion polls put them behind in the race to top place in the election due May 5th. The party broke records last year with three leaders in the space of four weeks and the recent, tragic death of one of their most articulate and persuasive young MLAs in Christopher Stalford at the weekend. The passing of Mr. Stalford came as quite a shock to many political commentators and will now be viewed as an extremely difficult issue for the DUP at a time of poor electoral polling and an endless cycle of bad publicity, media scandal and policy divergence.

The DUP MP Christopher Salford died at the age of 38 last weekend

Jeffrey Donaldson has come under fire by the BBC and their “Nolan Show” findings that he contemplated leaving his second political home of the DUP to re-join his first political party, the UUP. This comes at a tragic time for the party, who are trying to recover from the death of one of its most important young minds over the past few days – yet the unionist electorate may not give the DUP time to recover ground lost to stand out on May 5th as the voice of majority unionists. Jeffrey Donaldson’s decision to collapse the Northern Ireland Executive came after his “seven tests” on the Protocol were written up to pressure the EU and British government into agreeing a new compromise to the Protocol, putting the NHS, schools and general public affairs in a poor state of health.

One major question facing Mr. Donaldson is now whether unionists can trust an Ulster Unionist, turned-DUP MP into leading unionism with the largest nationalist party after the election at Stormont. Jeffrey Donaldson has not yet proven his ability to share power and responsibility with his rivals as he has spent his entire political capital at Westminster since 2010, presenting a more detached position within Ulster Unionism. The DUP doesn’t have the time left to make it to the finish line if questions over Jeffrey’s party loyalties continue to parade the press and tabloids. Should Jeffrey fail to do the “impossible” and end up bringing his party backward in electoral terms, the letter of resignation should be handed to Lord Morrow without reservation. The loss of Christopher Stalford has written the passing of one of unionism’s future leaders, who might have been able to turn the tide against an increasing appetite for a united Ireland.

Jeffrey Donaldson; an MP under pressure?

It is clear that the past few months have been really startling for the DUP and all of its support base – six opinion polls put them behind in the race to top place in the election due May 5th, the party broke records last year with three leaders in the space of four weeks and the recent, tragic death of one of their most articulate and persuasive young MLAs in Christopher Stalford at the weekend. The passing of Mr. Stalford came as quite a shock to many political commentators and will now be viewed as an extremely difficult issue for the DUP at a time of poor electoral polling and an endless cycle of bad publicity, media scandal and policy divergence.

Jeffrey Donaldson has come under fire by the BBC and their “Nolan Show” findings that he contemplated leaving his second political home of the DUP to re-join his first political party, the UUP. This comes at a tragic time for the party, who are trying to recover from the death of one of its most important young minds over the past few days – yet the unionist electorate may not give the DUP time to recover ground lost to stand out on May 5th as the voice of majority unionists. Jeffrey Donaldson’s decision to collapse the Northern Ireland Executive came after his “seven tests” on the Protocol were written up to pressure the EU and British government into agreeing a new compromise to the Protocol, putting the NHS, schools and general public affairs in a poor state of health.

One major question facing Mr. Donaldson is now whether unionists can trust an Ulster Unionist, turned-DUP MP into leading unionism with the largest nationalist party after the election at Stormont. Jeffrey Donaldson has not yet proven his ability to share power and responsibility with his rivals as he has spent his entire political capital at Westminster since 2010, presenting a more detached position within Ulster Unionism. The DUP doesn’t have the time left to make it to the finish line if questions over Jeffrey’s party loyalties continue to parade the press and tabloids. Should Jeffrey fail to do the “impossible” and end up bringing his party backward in electoral terms, the letter of resignation should be handed to Lord Morrow without reservation. The loss of Christopher Stalford has written the passing of one of unionism’s future leaders, who might have been able to turn the tide against an increasing appetite for a united Ireland.

Just like his fellow constituency counterparts in Rev. Robert Bradford and Edgar Graham, Christopher Stalford passed away before his chance to lead Ulster Unionism came. It is an assurance that the once disciple of Arlene mania would have been a future DUP leader, even as soon as May 6th should his party not have come out on top at the election. For a man who grew up in humble surroundings in the Annadale flats on the banks of the river Lagan, later a student at Queen’s University and an elected councillor at age 22, an MLA at 33 and a “leader-in-waiting” at 38. For someone who saw Margaret Thatcher as a political idol, sometimes looked arrogant on the TV screens in debate – he enjoyed a few jokes with his colleagues and Mark Carruthers in a grilling interview for which he will be remembered. The DUP have lost one of its most talented and skilful members at a time when he might have ended up at its helm in such a short time.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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