Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has been suspended from the Democratic Unionist Party after being charged with historical sex offences. 

The DUP said it had received a letter from Sir Jeffrey stating that he had been charged with allegations of a historical nature and would be stepping down as leader.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) issued a statement on Friday morning but did not reveal the identity of those charged.

The statement said a 61-year-old man had been charged with "non-recent sexual offences" adding that a 57-year-old woman was also arrested at the same time and charged with "aiding and abetting additional offences".

The statement also confirmed the pair would appear before Newry Magistrates' Court on April 24.

It is understood DUP officers met on Friday morning after details of the charges emerged.

In a statement, the DUP said: “In accordance with the party rules, the party officers have suspended Mr Donaldson from membership, pending the outcome of a judicial process.

“The party officers have this morning unanimously appointed Mr Gavin Robinson MP as the interim party leader.”

In 2021, Mr. Donaldson assumed leadership of the DUP. He holds the distinction of being Northern Ireland's longest-serving MP, a position he attained after his initial parliamentary election in 1997.

Notably, he successfully guided his party back into Northern Ireland's government, effectively ending a two-year boycott of Stormont institutions. The DUP's withdrawal from government stemmed from their opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which they argued undermined the region's position within the UK.

Mr. Donaldson's political journey began in 1997 when he entered Parliament as a member of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). However, his disagreement with the Good Friday Agreement and dissatisfaction with David Trimble's leadership prompted him to depart from the UUP in 2003, subsequently aligning himself with the DUP.

In recognition of his dedicated service to politics, he received a knighthood in 2016.

Mr. Donaldson's social media accounts had disappeared overnight.

It is further understood he withdrew from a number of public appearances at late notice yesterday.