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Robinson ‘humbled’ by public support following party turmoil

Gavin Robinson said he has been humbled by the public support he has received since the sudden resignation of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson as DUP leader.

Mr Robinson, the party’s interim leader, became visibly emotional as he discussed the toll of the last six days since it emerged that Sir Jeffrey had been charged with several historical sexual offences.

However, he insisted that the unionist party was bigger than any one individual and was united in moving forward positively.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson resigns as DUP leader
It is understood that Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is facing one count of rape, one count of gross indecency, and several counts of indecent assault (Liam McBurney/PA)

It is understood that Sir Jeffrey is facing one count of rape, one count of gross indecency, and several counts of indecent assault.

It is further understood that in a letter to party officers last week, he made clear he would be “strenuously contesting” all charges against him.

Mr Robinson, formerly the party’s deputy leader, had worked closely alongside Sir Jeffrey in striking the deal that led to the restoration of the Stormont powersharing institutions.

Jeffrey Donaldson allegations
DUP interim leader Gavin Robinson spoke about the impact of the last six days following the shock resignation of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (Jonathan McCambridge/PA)

Asked, about the impact of the past week, he stated: “They have been difficult days, I can’t shy away from that.

“But I am not alone. The shock that I faced and the choices that I had before me were shared by many colleagues.

“In the first instance and by the wider community in the days that followed, and I’ve been really humbled by the prayers and the encouragement and support that people have offered to me, out personally and publicly in our community.

“There is hope and it has been difficult. I don’t shy away from that at all.”

Mr Robinson added: “I have to hold on to the collective encouragement that is there, the shock that is shared by many in our community.

“But our willingness not to be defined by this and to recognise that the Democratic Unionist Party and unionism is more than any one individual.

“I stand here not as a single person, but as an individual who can only be here because of the support of MPs and MLAs and none of us can stand anywhere without the support of our councillors and our voluntary members.

“We are united at this time in our willingness and our resolve to move forward positively for the people we have the privilege of representing.”