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ir Jeffrey Donaldson has confirmed that he looks forward to leading the DUP as a new Stormont CEO, but said the Brexit Protocol must be worked out first.

The DUP leader said he hoped that after this weekend’s parliamentary elections, the UK Government would take “decisive action to address the issues surrounding the protocol”.

Mr. Jeffrey said that “will allow us to then get the Executive Board back to normal”.

In an interview with the PA news agency ahead of Thursday’s polling day, Sir Jeffrey said his party would be available on the first day after the election to sit down with other parties to agree a program for the election. government and budget.

I think leadership is about standing up and talking to people, even those with whom you may disagree

The executive branch was unable to function fully in February when DUP First Minister Paul Givan resigned in protest over the status of the protocol.

Collectivists oppose post-Brexit trade deals with additional checks on goods coming from the UK creating a border in the Irish Sea.

Sir Jeffrey said he believes people recognize the actions of the DUP as being “measured and proportionate”.

“We haven’t collapsed Stormont yet, ministers across departments remain in place, Parliament can continue to legislate until the election,” he said.

“But we cannot continue to pretend that everything is fine, it is not, and this protocol is harming our economy, it is undermining political stability in Northern Ireland, it has changed. change our constitutional status as part of the UK and we can’t ignore these, so we wanted to put this first.

People take part in a protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol (PA) / PA Archive

“I want to lead the DUP as CEO but we need to work out the issues around the protocol.

“This needs to be addressed, it needs to be addressed now and that was my focus right after the election, along with talking to other parties about a program for the government and the budget. ”

A recent opinion poll has suggested that Sinn Fein could make history as votes are counted by becoming the first Irish Republican or nationalist to become the biggest party in Stormont.

This will allow Sinn Fein to nominate a first minister for the first time

Sir Jeffrey stressed that he believes the DUP will win the election and is targeting gains in West Belfast and Fermanagh South Tyrone.

Although he had previously declined to commit to nominating a deputy first minister to serve as a first minister Sinn Fein, he insisted his party could work with them.

“I think, at least on the union side, people realize how important it is to have a union first minister,” he said.

“That’s not to say we can’t work with Sinn Fein and other parties in the Executive, we’ve done it and will continue to do it, but in the end I think most political parties Politicians entered an election to win and the DUP entered this election to win”.

Sir Jeffrey also defended his participation in the anti-protocol protests.

Political opponents have expressed concern about the protests “raising the temperature”, but Sir Jeffrey said “people’s real concerns” must be heard.

(from left) Jamie Bryson, leader of the DUP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Roy Ferguson, president of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, during a rally in Lurgan, County Armagh (PA) / PA wire

“I think it’s very important that we provide leadership and I’m not prepared to engage in silencing voices, voices that can be hard to hear but still have to be heard.” he said.

“If people want to protest legally and peacefully, that is their democratic right and I will uphold that right.

“I think leadership is about standing up and talking and listening to people, even people with whom you may disagree.

“Throughout my political career, I find myself sharing platforms with people, and I may not always agree with everything they say, they may not always agree with everything I say. But we have to listen to each other.

“We have to listen to the real concerns people have, and I want to make sure that where there is an objection to the protocol, where people want to object, we provide a platform to let allow them to do so peacefully and legally, and I think that’s the way forward in terms of objections to the protocol. “

Meanwhile, after a tumultuous 2021 when former DUP leader Arlene Foster stepped down before her successor Edwin Poots also stepped down, Sir Jeffrey said under his leadership, the party “now unites” much more”.

He said he supported Mr Poots, who moved to the South Belfast constituency following the sudden death of DUP MLA Christopher Stalford, adding that he was pleased with the reception his colleague he is there.

While traditionally the DUP is closely associated with the Liberal Presbyterian Church, Sir Jeffrey said the party is a “very broad church” and is “very representative of the broader community of unionists”.

“Of course, its core values ​​remain, but it’s also a party that I think has the ideas and the vision for Northern Ireland that we’ve outlined in the five-point plan that I think is attracting. a lot of support, right in the community,” he said.

“Everybody recognized in this election that it was the clear choice between the leadership of the DUP and our five-point plan to fix the NHS, improve our education system, create jobs. for our youth, supporting working families and disadvantaged households with the cost of living and removing the Irish Sea border, and of course, Sinn Fein’s divisive border exploration scheme .

“It’s an obvious choice and I think the DUP will of course win this election.”

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