Colonel Tim Collins backs legacy laws: ‘Northern Ireland needs to move on’

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Retired Colonel Tim Collins, who is to stand as a candidate for the Ulster Unionist Party in the next general election, has said he backs controversial new legacy laws because Northern Ireland has to move on.

Col Collins, known for a rousing pre-battle speech he made while serving in the British Army in Iraq in 2003, has said he believes he can win the North Down seat for the UUP.

The party has announced the military veteran will challenge sitting MP Stephen Farry, who represents the Alliance Party, in the ballot expected to be held later this year.

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Political parties in Northern Ireland have opposed the recently passed UK legacy laws which include a limited form of immunity from prosecution for Troubles-related offences for those who co-operate with the new Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (ICRIR).

Col Collins was asked on BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme if he backs the new laws.

He said: “I take the view that justice has been weaponised in the province and it has been taken away.

“Sadly the fallout from this is that some people won’t see justice.

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“On the other hand, Northern Ireland needs to move on, and this is part of moving Northern Ireland on. It needs to join the modern world and this is crucial to achieving that.”

Colonel Tim Collins at Fort Blair Mayne on the Iraqi borderColonel Tim Collins at Fort Blair Mayne on the Iraqi border
Colonel Tim Collins at Fort Blair Mayne on the Iraqi border

Pressed if this means he is in favour of the new laws, he said: “I think, sadly, it is something that is going to have to happen if we are ever to move on in Northern Ireland.

“We cannot keep clinging to the past.

“We have got to remember we have young people. We don’t need more inquiries – we need better health services, we need better education, we need to spend the money where it is required, we need to move on.”

Asked if this aligns with party policy, he said: “That is something I’ll have to discuss because I’ve only just recently joined the Ulster Unionist Party.”

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Col Collins said he currently lives in Canterbury but will buy a house in North Down if he wins the seat.

He said: “I pretty much grew up here (North Down), I grew up about a mile from here. During the Troubles we came to Holywood … These are the places I grew up … I have a number of connections.

“I know there is a lot of hard work to do. The question is when the election is going to be, will it be the spring? Increasingly I think the indications are – and I have a lot of friends in Westminster – they will probably hang on until November.”

Asked why he has decided to run, Col Collins said: “I looked at Northern Ireland and ultimately I saw it hadn’t moved an inch from when I was last approached to be an MP 20 years ago, and I thought it’s about time.

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“I have the time and resources to take this on and it needs to be taken on.

“I think North Down is traditionally an Ulster Unionist seat. The anomalies that have happened over the last few years are what gifted it to Alliance, but that has changed and I am confident I can win it.”

The veteran also praised DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson for delivering an emotional speech in Westminster earlier this week in which he said he had faced threats for his efforts to restore powersharing to Northern Ireland.

He said: “I have never seen him so emotional and I really feel for him.

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“I think what he said is what people need to listen to. He has given service and the people who are threatening him have not.

“They need to back down and wise up.”

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie, who served alongside Col Collins in Iraq, told the Belfast Telegraph he is “very confident” the 63-year-old can win the seat.

The party has not been represented in the House of Commons since former South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan and former Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Tom Elliott lost their seats in 2017.