General Election 2017: Strangford sees ex-UUP leader vying for seat

Tidal power at Strangford Lough will form part of the research project
Tidal power at Strangford Lough will form part of the research project

Mike Nesbitt will return to the scene of his recent resignation when counting begins in Aurora Leisure Centre in Bangor on Friday, June 9.

It was here – as votes were being counted in March – that Mr Nesbitt cut a sorrowful figure as he learned of his party’s performance and eventually announced his resignation as leader of the UUP.

Strangford is a safe unionist seat in Westminster and the DUP’s Jim Shannon is the most likely to be sitting on it when voting closes.

Mr Nesbitt has held an Assembly seat in Strangford since 2011, however the DUP has developed a stranglehold on the territory in recent years, with three out of the five Assembly seats belonging to it.

Mr Shannon – a former UDR soldier – has held the seat since 2010.

It had previously been occupied – and then vacated – by the DUP’s Iris Robinson.

Mr Shannon received three times as many votes as the next candidate last time out for Westminster – and nearly as many votes as all the other candidates combined.

The main contender against Mr Shannon could end up being the Alliance Party’s Kellie Armstrong, who was first past the post at March’s Assembly election.

Both Mr Shannon and Ms Armstrong said attitudes towards Brexit will by key at the forthcoming election.

Mr Shannon said a strong vote for the DUP “would send a clear message that we do not want to see a divisive border poll when our focus should be on the bread-and-butter issues that impact on people’s lives here”.

Ms Armstrong said her party was committed to avoiding a hard Brexit for the UK as a whole.

“We support a second referendum on the outcome of any negotiations, and achieving a special deal for Northern Ireland,” she said.

SDLP’s Joe Boyle will once again put his hat in the ring having having narrowly missed out at a succession of Assembly elections. A well-liked figure in the area, it is highly unlikely he will trouble the top end of the poll.

Candidates for 2017:

• Kellie Armstrong, Alliance

• Ricky Bamford, Green Party

• Joe Boyle, SDLP

• Claire Hiscott, Conservatives

• Carole Murphy, Sinn Fein

• Mike Nesbitt, UUP

• Jim Shannon, DUP

2015 general election:

Jim Shannon (DUP): 15,053 (44.4%)

R Burgess (UUP): 4,868 (14.3%)

K Armstrong (Alliance):

4,687 (13.8%)

J Boyle (SDLP): 2,335 (6.9%)

J Jordan (UKIP): 2,237 (6.6%)

J Andrews (Cons.): 2,167 (6.4%)

S Cooper (TUV): 1,701 (5%)

S Bailie (SF): 876 (2.6%)

Electorate: 64,289

Turnout: 34,110 (53.1%)

Combined unionist vote: 76.7%

2010 general election:

Jim Shannon (DUP): 14,926 (45.9%)

M Nesbitt (Ulster Cons. and Unionists): 9,050 (27.8%)

D Girvan (Alliance): 2,828 (8.7%)

C Hanna (SDLP): 2,164 (6.7%)

T Williams (TUV): 1,814 (5.6%)

M Coogan (SF): 1,161 (3.6%)

B Haig (Green): 562 (1.7%)

Electorate: 60,539

Turnout: 32,600 (53.8%)

Combined unionist vote: 79.3%