The young Jeffrey Donaldson: ‘A liberal; not devoid of personal charm’

A 1997 profile of current DUP leader is contained in newly released Belfast files

Jeffrey Donaldson was elected as a Westminster MP for the UUP in Lagan Valley in May 1997. He joined the DUP in 2004. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

A profile of the current DUP leader and former UUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson on his election to Westminster for Lagan Valley in May 1997 is highlighted in this year's releases from the Public Record Office in Belfast.

In a note on a file for the minister of state for the North in 1997 Adam Ingram, David Mercer, an official, recalled the Kilkeel-born MP became a member of the Orange and Black Institutions and established himself as a backroom assistant to the former South Down MP Enoch Powell.

"Though he did not share all Powell's views on political development, he proved a dedicated worker," according to the official. Following the election of David Trimble as UUP leader, the young politician's career began to develop and, along with Reg Empey, he had made a significant contribution to the UUP's representation, it was noted.

The official highlighted Donaldson’s image as a liberal within unionism: “[He] gained a reputation during the 1992 talks as being one of the more liberal members of the UUP team. Since then his stance has been less easy to pin down.”


Mercer suggested that in his determination to become an MP, Donaldson had “repositioned himself” to appear more acceptable to the party hierarchy. Observing how Donaldson had visited the US both to promote the unionist cause and to hone his political skills, he concluded: “A thoughtful individual and not devoid of personal charm.”