Personality note described Donaldson as ‘not devoid of charm’

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  • Jeffrey Donaldson
    British politician (born 1962)

A young Jeffrey Donaldson was described in 1997 as a “thoughtful individual, not devoid of personal charm”, in a briefing note prepared for a Government minister.

The note, revealed in archived papers released by the Public Records Office, also states that some in Government believed that the future DUP leader had originally been viewed as “moderate and liberal”, but had repositioned himself “due to his determination to become an MP”.

Just a month after the Labour Party under Tony Blair had swept to power at Westminster, new Minister for State for Northern Ireland Adam Ingram arranged a series of meetings with local political representatives to discuss economic development.

One of the meetings was with the new Ulster Unionist MP for Lagan Valley Jeffrey Donaldson.

Officials prepared a briefing note for the minister, which included a “personality note” on Mr Donaldson.

It stated: “Jeffrey Donaldson is the youngest member of the UUP Executive committee in the recent history of the party.

“Deeply interested in local politics and became a member of the Orange and Black institutions as soon as he was the relevant age.

“Established himself as the backroom assistant to the sitting MP Enoch Powell.

“The job of constituency work came naturally to him and whilst he did not share all of Powell’s views on political development in Northern Ireland, he proved a willing and dedicated worker.”

The note continues: “Following the election of David Trimble as party leader his political career continued to develop and he was nominated as one of the UUP’s delegates to the multi-party talks which commenced in June 1996.

“He has been an active participant, together with Reg Empey, and has made a significant contribution to the UUP’s representation.

“In 1997 he was successfully elected as MP for Lagan Valley, following the retirement of Jim Molyneaux.

“Jeffrey Donaldson gained a reputation during the 1992 talks as being one of the more liberal and moderate members of the UUP team. Since then, his stance has been less easy to pin down.

“Some would say that his determination to become an MP led to a fairly astute repositioning of himself in order to appear more acceptable to the party hierarchy; and certainly his continued rise in the face of the right wing shift in the UUP’s centre of gravity since Trimble’s accession might be read as a tribute to his skills in that regard.

“A thoughtful individual, and not devoid of personal charm.

“He has visited the United States on a number of occasions both to put the unionist cause and also increase his political skills.

“A good public speaker.”

In 2002, Jeffrey Donaldson resigned from the Ulster Unionist Party following disagreements with party leader David Trimble.

He joined the DUP, became its leader in the House of Commons in 2019 and party leader in 2021.

He is Northern Ireland’s longest serving MP and was knighted in 2016.

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