Rishi Sunak says Northern Ireland Executive will have 'full support' of government

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it is important that the devolved government continues to function at Stormont as he pledged the government's "full support".

Mr Sunak said he has been pleased by the united front from the local parties following the resignation of DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who was charged with historical sexual offences.

"I've worked very hard to get the Executive back up and running in Northern Ireland, that's what people in Northern Ireland want and deserve," Mr Sunak said.

"I'm pleased that that's happened and I'm reassured that everyone's committed to delivering that stability going forward and I look forward to working with Gavin Robinson who obviously I have worked with in the past as well.

"The people of Northern Ireland have waited a long time to have their Executive back up and running, it's important that it continues to do so and they will have our full support."

First Minister Michelle O'Neill and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly have also pledged to maintain stability following Sir Jeffrey's resignation on Friday.

“My priority as First Minister is to provide that stability, to work with all the other party leaders, all those who form our Executive,” said Ms O'Neill on Sunday.

Ms Little-Pengelly said she was “devastated” at the disclosures, however, she said her focus was on providing stability and delivering for the people.

“I will be working closely with our new interim party leader Gavin Robinson and my colleagues in the time ahead to continue the work of tackling the big issues faced by Northern Ireland,” she said.

“There is much to do. We are determined to deliver for all of the people of Northern Ireland.”

DUP interim leader Mr Robinson sent a message to party colleagues on Saturday offering similar reassurances, saying the DUP was “not about any one individual”.

It is understood that Sir Jeffrey, 61, who has been suspended from the DUP, 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 informing them of the allegations he made clear he would be “strenuously contesting” all charges against him.

Sir Jeffrey, who was arrested and charged on Thursday, will appear in court in Newry, Co Down, later this month in relation to the non-recent sexual allegations.

A woman has been charged with aiding and abetting offences in relation to the same police investigation.

The PSNI has advised the public to avoid speculating about the case, with officers highlighting that it was a criminal offence to post or publish anything that might lead to the identification of alleged victims in sexual offences investigations.

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