Nigel Alexander Dodds, OBE, PC, MP (born 20 August 1958) is a Northern Irish barrister and Unionist politician. He is Member of Parliament (MP) for Belfast North, and deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. He has been Lord Mayor of Belfast twice, and from 1993 has been General Secretary of the DUP.
Since June 2008 he has also been Deputy Leader of the DUP. Dodds became North Belfast's MP in the 2001 UK general elections. He has served in the past as a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and as Minister of Finance in the Northern Ireland Executive.
Nigel Dodds was born in Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and was educated at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, and studied Law at St John's College, Cambridge from which he graduated with a first-class degree, and where he won the university scholarship, McMahan studentship and Winfield Prize for Law. Upon graduation, he returned to Northern Ireland and, after studying at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen's University, Belfast (IPLS), was called to the Northern Irish bar. After working as a barrister he worked at the Secretariat of the European Parliament from 1984-96.
His father Joe, was a long-standing DUP member of Fermanagh District Council until his death in 2008. He is married to Diane Dodds; they have one son and one daughter, and live in Banbridge, County Down.
Dodds entered municipal politics in 1981 when he stood unsuccessfully for the Enniskillen part of Fermanagh District Council. Four years later in 1985, he was elected to Belfast City Council for the religiously and socially mixed Castle electoral area in the north of the city.
Dodds soon rose to prominence in the party. He was elected for two one-year terms as Lord Mayor of Belfast in June 1988 (when he became the youngest ever Lord Mayor of Belfast aged 29 )and June 1992. The same year, he stood unsuccessfully for the East Antrim constituency in the Westminster election. He was elected to the Northern Ireland Forum in 1996 and topped the poll in North Belfast in all three elections to the reconstituted Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998, 2003 and 2007. Dodds was awarded the OBE in 1997 for services to Local Government.
North Belfast had historically been strong territory for the DUP, with Johnny McQuade representing the constituency in the British House of Commons from 1979-83. The DUP tactically stood down in favour of the Ulster Unionist Party in Westminster elections in the late 1980s and 1990s, in order to avoid splitting the unionist vote. Then, in 2001, Dodds challenged sitting Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) MP Cecil Walker, despite the dangers of losing the mixed constituency to an Irish nationalist. Despite the risk inherent in splitting the unionist vote, Dodds won just over 40% of the overall vote and with that a 6,387 majority over Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly, with the incumbent Walker being pushed into fourth place.
Dodds was Minister of Social Development in the Northern Ireland Executive from 21 November 1999 but resigned on 27 July 2000, then served again from 24 October 2001, when the devolved institutions were restored, until he was dismissed from office on 11 October 2002, shortly before the executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly were collapsed by the UUP.
In a Westminster debate on the issue of governance in association football, Dodds highlighted that footballers born in Northern Ireland often opt to play for the Republic of Ireland national football team instead, saying "action needs to be taken to stop the haemorrhaging of talent from Northern Ireland".
12 July 2013 injury
On the Twelfth of July 2013 Orange order parades, he was knocked unconscious at Woodvale Avenue in the Greater Shankill area of North Belfast by a brick thrown by Loyalists rioting against police roadblocks. The violence broke out following the decision by the Parades Commission to bar Orangemen from walking past the Irish Republican Ardoyne area and Unionist Woodvale area. Dodds had been expelled from the House of Commons chamber for using unparliamentary language by Speaker John Bercow on 10 July 2013, after Dodds had refused to withdraw his accusation that the Conservative Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers was being "deliberately deceptive" in answering questions about her powers in respect of what he called the "outrageous" Parades Commission ruling.
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