Election 2015: Strangford

Strangford Lough
Strangford Lough

Though it may seem surprising to seasoned election watchers, Jim Shannon’s second term as MP – and there seems little doubt about the result – will see the DUP surpass John Taylor’s 18-year term in what was once seen as an unassailable UUP seat.

Seized by Iris Robinson in 2001, it was then retained by constituency stalwart Shannon in 2010 upon her resignation.

There seems little reason why this staunchly unionist constituency should abandon Shannon now, and historically other parties have failed to make any great inroads on the unionist majority.

Former Down District councillor and now a member of the new Newry and Mourne administration, Robert Burgess is the UUP candidate but has a fraction of the profile that his DUP rival enjoys.

Dominated by the Ards Peninsula with Newtownards as its principal town, Strangford relies heavily on the agri-food sector.

Mash Direct and Willowbrook are two large businesses in the area, while there is also the fishing base of Portavogie.

There are also manufacturing firms such as Bombardier, TG Eakin in Comber, and Magellan Aerospace (formerly John Huddleston Engineering) in Greyabbey.

One major issue is the reliance also on the public sector, with many constituents working in the civil service and other bodies such as the Housing Executive, which has a main office in Newtownards.

As well as developing tourism along the peninsula, Mr Shannon says coping with the downsizing of the public sector has been a major issue on the doorstep.

“It’s about creating a basis of jobs and tourism is a potential that hasn’t been realised yet.

“It’s also getting a balance in the reduction in the number of civil service jobs and the private sector re-emerging and creating jobs. Corporation tax will be a bonus to us in achieving that.”

Mr Shannon may feel that the mood among the electorate is upbeat this time around but Mr Burgess said he feels change is a real possibility.

“As I’m knocking doors here at the minute, I don’t think the DUP is doing as well as they think,” he said.

“People are talking to me about jobs and tourism, but they are also concerned about health issues, waiting lists, the hospitals and education.

“Those are all big issues that need to be addressed and I think that the UUP – if given the chance this time around – could make a big change.”

Also looking for a change is Kellie Armstrong of Alliance, one of only two women standing this time.

With a career in the third sector and 10 years in the party, she said: “Given the fact that I had worked in the peninsula for a long time, there’s quite a lot of people would recognise me from that.

“Quite a lot of families have a concern that the younger generation don’t have any options locally and are having to move away.

“People have told me they feel they have been on the periphery for a long time and they are looking for someone who’s going to do somthing for them.”


ANDREWS, Johnny (Conservatives)

ARMSTRONG, Kellie (Alliance)

BAILIE, Sheila (Sinn Fein)



COOPER, Stephen (TUV)

JORDAN, Joe (Ukip)




• Jim Shannon (DUP): 14,926

45.9%, down by 10.6% on 2005

• Mike Nesbitt (UUP-Cons): 9,050

27.8%, up 6.5%

• Deborah Girvan (Alliance): 2,828

8.7%, down 0.3%

• Claire Hanna (SDLP): 2,164

6.7%, down 1.5%

Terry Williams (TUV): 1,814


• Michael Coogan (Sinn Fein): 1,161

3.6%, up 1%

• Barbara Haig (Green): 562


Electorate: 60,539

Turnout: 53,9%


• Iris Robinson (DUP): 20,921


• Gareth McGimpsey (UUP): 7,872


• Kieran McCarthy (Alliance): 3,332


• Joe Boyle (SDLP): 2,496


• Terry Dick (Conservative): 1,462


• Dermot Kennedy (Sinn Fein): 949



• Iris Robinson (DUP): 18,532


• David McNarry (UUP): 17,422


• Kieran McCarthy (Alliance): 2,902


• Danny McCarthy (SDLP): 2,646


• Liam Johnstone (Sinn Fein): 930


• Cedric Wilson (NI Unionists): 822