Belfast Telegraph

North Antrim: UUP's Minford visited daughter's grave after deciding to run

By Noel McAdam

An Ulster Unionist candidate has told how he visited his daughter's grave after accepting the party's nomination to run in North Antrim - because it was such a big decision.

Jackson Minford and his wife Alison lost their daughter Lauren in a car accident four years ago and the 59-year-old wanted to spend some "quiet time" with her.

Lauren, who was in her mid-20s and had just become a primary school teacher, was killed in a crash with a lorry near Portglenone as she travelled to work.

"We have always been a close family and I just wanted to go and be with Lauren," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I said to her in my heart: 'I know you are not here but if you were you would be out canvassing for me'.

"I knew even before I went that I would have her approval.

"We live with her loss every day and, since this is a big step for me, I just wanted to be close to her and have some quiet time."

Aged 59, he is the son of Nat Minford, the MP for South Antrim from 1951 until Stormont was abolished in 1972.

His grandfather Hugh was also MP, from 1929 to 1950.

An uncle, Bolton Minford, had also served as a member of Antrim County Council.

"Unionism has always been in the blood of the Minford family but I had decided I wanted to retire around 60 and spend more time relaxing," Jackson said.

"But I had decided quite recently to join the party and felt very honoured when the leader, Robin Swann, rang me to ask me to consider standing. I spoke with my wife and (daughter)Emma and, even though I had only retired a month ago, agreed to do it."

Several of the Minfords fought former DUP leader Lord Bannside, Ian Paisley, in elections over the years. Now Jackson is campaigning against the former First Minister's son, Ian, who currently has a majority of more than 11,500 votes.

For most of his life, Jackson has been a career civil servant, ending up in Transport NI. He said over his 43 years of service he had been "scrupulously politically neutral" with all the political parties.

"Now I have retired I am free to stand for election and I intend to campaign vigorously for my party on the issues that matter to the people here," he said.

Mr Minford identified the need for investment in the area after the recent closure of the JTI and Michelin factories.

And he also said the length of time people are having to wait for hospital treatment is "unacceptable".

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann MLA yesterday announced many of the party's election candidates.

The party had already decided to stand aside in Foyle, North Belfast and West Belfast, and has yet to announce anything about the key battleground of South Belfast, where an agreed unionist candidate could potentially unseat SDLP MP Alasdair McDonnell.

The party's two sitting MPs - Danny Kinahan in South Antrim and Tom Elliott in Fermanagh & South Tyrone - will be fighting to retain their seats.

Former party leader Mike Nesbitt has already said he will be standing in his home constituency of Strangford.

The other candidates announced yesterday are John Stewart in East Antrim; Richard Holmes in East Londonderry; Robbie Butler in Lagan Valley; Mark Glasgow in Mid Ulster; Alan Chambers in North Down; Harold McKee in South Down; Doug Beattie in Upper Bann; and Alicia Clarke in West Tyrone.

"They demonstrate the depth and talent of the membership of the Ulster Unionist Party across Northern Ireland," said Mr Swann. "People immersed in their local communities who have a commitment to making Northern Ireland a place we can all be proud to call home and are unashamed advocates for the Union."

He added that "this election is not a re-run of last year`s referendum on membership of the EU - that boat has sailed."

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