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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.JPG
Reuters
World News

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson: One of Northern Ireland's most senior politicians on the future of the country and how his leadership is grounded by his Christian faith

by Marcus Jones

The man who could become the most senior politician in Northern Ireland has told Premier how his approach to politics and leadership is grounded by his Christian faith.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson took over the leadership of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) earlier this summer after previous leader Arlene Foster stood down and her replacement Edwin Poots lasted just three weeks in the job.

As a serving MP in Westminster, Donaldson is unable to take over as Northern Ireland's First Minister but will look to stand down from his role as an MP in order to take up the national role next year.

Donaldson, who has served as an MP for almost 25 years is unashamed about talking about the role his Christian faith plays in his life.

Speaking as part of Premier Christian Radio's Nation's Day focusing on the Church in Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland, he described how it impacts his working life day to day.

"My approach to politics and leadership is grounded in my Christian faith and I think that each day, I'm reminded of the strength of that faith and how it helps to sustain me in the challenges and decisions that I face on a daily basis.

"I have a motivation and a desire to help people. To meet them at their point of need. That is very much at the heart of my politics - being able to do things that can transform the lives of others and can bring about change."

Reuters
Reuters

The title of party leader or First Minister wasn't something Donaldson ever aspired to but he says he'll use it to help Northern Ireland become a better place.

In his wide ranging interview he spoke of his concern over the diminishing voice of the Church when it comes to politics in Northern Ireland.

"I think increasingly, church leaders do find it difficult to speak out in public, and to give a faith based perspective on social issues. 

"I do think that the influence of the Church has diminished as a result and whilst the Church remains strong in and of itself, I think that increasingly in many parts of the United Kingdom, we are seeing the Church in retreat from the public square, perhaps reticent about engaging in public debate on these issues."

In recent years Northern Ireland has seen significant changes on things like abortion and same sex marriage. While many within the Church spoke out against changing legislation, Donaldson feels their voice is quietening.

"I think that if we want to talk about a tolerant, and inclusive society, there has to be room for people of faith, there has to be room for the Church to express its view and to do so freely. 

"I think freedom of religion or belief is a fundamental building block of our nation and it concerns me at times that perhaps the Church feels under pressure to comply and feels under pressure, not to be salt and light in our society."

The politician is urging Christians to not give up and offers a simple solution when it comes to influencing politics.

"I believe that prayer is a very powerful thing. I think prayer is probably the most important thing that the church has available to it. 

"I often encourage Christians to intercede in prayer on these issues and to give prayerful support to those of us who are involved as Christians in the political process. I think the Church has a continuing role to pray for those in authority over us - indeed the Bible commands us to do this."

Donaldson has taken on the role of DUP leader at a significant moment for the country. Not only is it coming to terms with the effects of the Covid pandemic, it's also battling the repercussions of Brexit.

Despite the challenges, he feels confident over the prospects of his country.

"When I think of the journey we've been on in Northern Ireland, I think the mountains we've already climbed are higher than the ones in front of us and the peace process in particular, has seen this place transformed, for the better.

"My approach to all of this is one of hope, I am hopeful for the future of Northern Ireland. Yes, we have big challenges in front of us but I think we're in a better place than we were during the 30 dark years, that we call the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and I think we have a duty to build a Northern Ireland, that is better for the next generation and I want that to be my legacy and the legacy of my generation - that what we hand on to the next generation is better than the Northern Ireland we inherited."

You can hear the full interview on Premier Christian Radio at 8.05am on Thursday 4th November. For more Nation's Day content visit premierchristianradio.com/nationsday
 

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