Shannon the favourite in Strangford constituency

Shannon the favourite in Strangford constituency

17 May 2017

SIX candidates are contesting the Strangford Westminster election seat.

The DUP’s Jim Shannon is out to retain the seat he has held for the past seven years, with former Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt running alongside Alliance’s Kellie Armstrong and the Green Party’s Ricky Bamford. 

Sinn Fein has selected Carole Murphy, while veteran Ards and North Down councillor Joe Boyle is flying the flag for the SDLP.  Unlike in previous Westminster polls, the Northern Ireland Conservatives and the TUV are not fielding a candidate.

While Shannon is the clear favourite to retain his seat, he said he is taking nothing for granted and has no doubt that with the battle to leave the EU now over, the focus must be on securing the very best deal for the UK as a whole and for Northern Ireland in particular through the negotiations. 

Elsewhere, Alliance will be hoping Kellie Armstrong can repeat her recent Assembly election success and finish ahead of the UUP’s Nesbitt.

Mr Nesbitt did not stand in Strangford at the last Westminster election in 2010 when Rowallane councillor Robert Burgess was the party standard bearer, securing 4,868 votes.

Last March, Mrs Armstrong secured 5,813 first preference votes — 490 more than Mr Nesbitt who at the time was still the leader of his party. Alliance will be hoping to repeat that success on June 8 to provide a platform on which to build future electoral success.

However, veteran SDLP councillor Joe Boyle will have something to say about that. While he came agonisingly close to securing the fifth Assembly seat up for grabs in the constituency last March, the Portaferry businessman is confident of another solid performance.

The Ards and North Down councillor secured his highest ever first preference vote at the recent Assembly poll, increasing it to 3,945. It provides him with a great platform to build on and the popular underdog is not one to go down without a fight.

His main aim will be to push Mrs Armstrong as hard as he can and if his showing last March is any kind of yardstick, Mr Boyle will be looking to  increase his 2015 Westminster election showing of  2,325 votes.

Sinn Fein’s Carole Murphy will be aimed to increase the party’s performance in 2015 in the constituency when Sheila Bailie, the mother of Downpatrick councillor Naomi Bailie, secured 876 votes.

Once again, the Green Party flag will be flown by Comber woman, Ricky Bamford, a relative newcomer to politics. She polled just 918 votes at the Assembly election last March and will be keen to improve on that performance.