General Election 2017: UUP leader predicts ‘no upset’ in North Antrim

Robin Swann outlined his concerns over the plan
Robin Swann outlined his concerns over the plan

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann has said there will be “no upset” in the DUP heartland of North Antrim.

A traditional DUP heartland, North Antrim has been inescapably linked with the party’s former leader Dr Ian Paisley since he first won the seat in 1970.

Having maintained an iron grip on the constituency for four decades until his retirement in 2010, many wondered if the fortunes of DUP would change once Mr Paisley stepped down in 2010, to be replaced by his son Ian Paisley Jr.

However, the dynastic dominance of the party appears to be as strong as ever, with Mr Paisley Jr strolling home in 2015 with 43.2% of the vote.

Speaking at the count centre in Ballymena, Mr Swann acknowledged it was a virtual certainly that Mr Paisley would retain his seat. But he added was confident that UUP candidate, newcomer Jackson Minford, would “hold his own”.

He added: “This may be his first campaign but he has fought an excellent campaign. He has been well received and has enjoyed it.

“We have had two good increases in the last Westminster election and the recent Assembly election. Jackson is well known and respected and I think he should hold our vote from the last poll.”

Sinn Fein enjoyed a surprise success in North Antrim at the recent Assembly election, with its candidate Philip McGuigan making history by topping the poll in the constituency for the first time.

But the sudden resurgence of the republican party is likely to amount to very little in what is considered an extremely safe DUP Westminster seat.