Tim Collins to run in North Down

Tim Collins

Beattie dismisses suggestions of Unionist pact

By Julie Waters

THE Ulster Unionist Party has made the surprise announcement that retired military veteran Colonel Tim Collins will be the party’s North Down candidate in the forthcoming general election.

Speaking at a special event at Cultra’s Culloden Hotel yesterday afternoon, party leader Doug Beattie said he believed that the 63 year-old Sandhurst graduate ‘was the right man for North Down and will be good for the people of North Down.’

As the UUP’s North Down candidate, Mr Collins boasts a distinguished military career spanning 23 years, and is best known for his inspirational eve of battle speech given to the troops under his command shortly before the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

With an election likely this year, there has been intense discussion, publicly and privately, about a joint unionist candidate to take on sitting MP, Stephen Farry.

DUP sources have already indicated to the Spectator that it is unlikely the party will put forward a candidate in North Down. It is also believed the TUV will not field a candidate and before yesterday’s announcement it was thought likely the DUP and TUV would support independent unionist Alex Easton if he stood for election.

Mr Beattie, who has always refused to take part in pacts, dismissed the suggestion that the UUP had taken part in any discussions surrounding a pact in North Down.

The party leader said Mr Collins is the ‘man who can win this constituency and that is why we have put him forward’.

“I have to be clear, Tim Collins is the Ulster Unionist Party candidate for North Down. He has joined the Ulster Unionist Party, that is where we are. Across the 18 constituencies we aim to run a candidate in every constituency.”

He said Mr Collins would be the ‘ideal unionist for North Down’ and his ‘profile in Westminster will stand the constituency in good stead’.

Now a successful businessman, Mr Collins said he would be stepping back from his role as chairman of his intelligence based security company to ‘follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before, most notably the long and distinguished service to the constituency of Lady Sylvia Hermon’.

Paying tribute to the former North Down MP who held the seat for nearly two decades, he said: “I can only hope to emulate a small part of the great success that she brought to the role.”

However the UUP candidate pledged to use his ‘influence and powers of persuasion’ to ensure that the constituency would receive ‘the best opportunities that Westminster can offer’ should he be elected.  

As the Alliance Party’s deputy leader, Mr Farry has been selected as his party’s North Down candidate and hopes to retain the seat he has held since 2019 when he replaced Lady Sylvia Hermon.