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Michelle O'Neill says there is no threat to Northern Ireland power sharing after Jeffrey Donaldson's resignation

There is no threat to Northern Ireland's power-sharing agreement after the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) resigned over allegations of historical sexual offences, First Minister Michelle O'Neill has said.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson stepped down on Friday. It is understood he will be "strenuously contesting" all charges against him.

Sinn Fein vice president Ms O'Neill told Sky News she has approached the leaders of the three other parties in the ministerial executive in Belfast to ensure "cohesion" amid the political fallout.

The deal that restored power sharing earlier this year hinged on the backing of Donaldson.

"I think everybody was shocked," Ms O'Neill said of Friday's developments.

"[It's] a very challenging time, not least for those people that have come forward to the police."

She added: "I've spoken to the new interim leader of the DUP, Gavin Robinson. I've also spoken to my executive colleagues, the political leaders around the executive table, just in terms of the work that we have to do, that we need to prioritise cohesion and leadership through these times."

Read more:
Who is Sir Jeffrey Donaldson?

What is power sharing and why is the system used?

No threat to power sharing

Ms O'Neill said all the party leaders shared the view there is no threat to the power-sharing institutions.

"The public here rightly deserve our newly formed executive to continue to deliver for them for now and into the future," she said.

"My priority is to make that power sharing work, my priority is to work with the other political leaders around the executive table.

"That was why I thought it was important yesterday to reach out to each of the political leaders to talk about the need for cohesion, to talk about the need for leadership and to talk about the delivery that we now need to get on with in terms of the executive itself."

The first minister added she intended to "provide leadership" and to make sure the power-sharing government got results on the "day-to-day matters that people want us to be prioritising".

"The public rightly expect their political leaders to deliver for them. That's where I'm going to be focused," she said.

'Victims must have opportunity for justice'

It came after Northern Ireland's deputy first minister Emma Little-Pengelly said she was "shocked and devastated" by the news of the charges against Donaldson.

She added: "Victims must always have the best opportunity for justice. This must be fully respected and supported.

"My thoughts are with those suffering who have put their faith in the criminal justice system.

"Protecting the integrity of that process necessitates significant restrictions on what can be said. I have faith in our justice system."

Ms Little-Pengelly went on to say that she was "determined" to work with the interim party leader Mr Robinson to "provide stability" and continue "tackling the big issues faced by Northern Ireland".

Donaldson due in court in April

Donaldson has led the DUP since 2021 and has been the MP for Lagan Valley since 1997.

The 61-year-old will appear in court in Newry, Co Down, on 24 April.

A 57-year-old woman has been charged with aiding and abetting offences in relation to the same police investigation.

He has been suspended by the party but it is understood he remains an MP.