Northern Ireland

UUP’s Tim Collins concedes in North Down claiming constituents ‘interested in potholes and hedges’

It is now expected to be a close race between Alliance’s Stephen Farry and independent Alex Easton

Tim Collins, Ulster Unionist Party candidate for the North Down constituency, at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast, during the count for the 2024 General Election. Picture date: Thursday July 4, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Election Ulster. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire (Liam McBurney/Liam McBurney/PA Wire)

North Down is set for a close race between Alliance’s Stephen Farry and independent candidate Alex Easton, after UUP candidate Tim Collins conceded he was not polling well.

The race for North Down has been one of the most heated with tensions high between the three front runners with Tim Collins claiming the people of North Down were more interested in “potholes and hedges” than international affairs as he looked set to take place third there.

Follow live General Election updates from the Irish News team on our blog here.

But as the ballot papers for the constituency were being counted last night it seemed clear that there would be just two contenders.

In an early blow for the UUP the former British army colonel conceded his voted hadn’t held strong. He also predicted a win for Mr Easton over Mr Farry, who was elected to the North Down seat in 2019.

“People in North Down, I think they don’t want someone who doesn’t live in Northern Ireland,” he told the BBC.

“They’re interested in local politics, they’re not interested in cutting VAT, they’re not interested in international affairs. They’re interested in potholes and hedges.”

Asked would he run again in five years’ time, Col Collins said he could not predict what he would be doing then: “I was asked to do this, and I’ll happily do it. I financed myself and I’m pleased I did it because, I’m putting something back into Northern Ireland and I’m pleased to do that.”

He also defended comments he made during the campaign about his Rolls Royce, which he said was more expensive to insure in Northern Ireland.

“It’s Northern Ireland, they don’t understand these things. The point I was making is it’s an expensive car, it is cheaper to insure in England than it is here,” he said.

Mr Farry became the first non-unionist candidate to take the seat in 100 years.

But early tallies indicated last night that this seat could return to a unionist candidate this time around.

The intra-unionist contest in the area over the last six weeks has been messy and acrimonious and has delivered a number of headlines.

There was a sense within political unionism that a single unionist candidate could stand to unseat Mr Farry.

However the UUP in January announced the candidacy of Col Collins.

Mr Easton secured the backing of the DUP - his former party - and the TUV and appears likely to have outpolled Col Collins.

Boundary changes could also come into play to help Mr Farry but unlike 2019, both the Greens and the SDLP are running this time.