Ukip will win more than one seat at Stormont, predicts a confident Farage
UKIP will take seats in the Assembly election despite regional chief David McNarry standing down, party leader Nigel Farage insisted yesterday.
On a one-day trip to Northern Ireland, Mr Farage said: "I think we are going to win seats. There, I have said it - plural."
But he refused to forecast where they would be and revealed he had "tried very hard" to get Mr McNarry to run again.
Mr Farage also said he "regretted" the departure from the party of Henry Reilly, who is now standing for Jim Allister's TUV in South Down. "I regret all good people that depart, but disputes happen in parties," he added.
The Ukip leader insisted he was "deeply hopeful" that after the May 5 poll his party would also have seats in the Scottish and Welsh parliaments and the new London Assembly. "There has never been a better time for a breakthrough in Northern Ireland and in Scotland because of the proximity of the Assembly elections and the (EU) referendum," he told this paper.
"The fact is Stormont failed to deliver. People here know that when it comes to leaving what used to be called the Common Market, Ukip is the real deal."
Accompanied by outgoing Strangford MLA Mr McNarry, the Ukip chief went on a whistlestop tour of several key seats yesterday, including South Belfast and East Antrim.
"I am in Northern Ireland quite a bit - it is hugely important to me to be here," he said, then quipped he hoped the next time he would come over would be with "a fishing rod in August".
Mr Farage was previously here just last month for a head-to-head on the referendum campaign with shadow Secretary of State Vernon Coaker.
"I have been here four or five times in the last year - it is always a pleasure," he said.
By 9am Mr Farage was already on the go in East Belfast, where Jonny Lavery is the party's standard bearer, before a rendezvous at the Orange hall in Sandy Row and a walkabout to boost the chances of South Belfast candidate Bob Stoker.
His entourage - some wearing the trademark purple Ukip jackets with the party logo and Union flags - included North Belfast candidate Ken Boyle and South Antrim candidate Robert Hill.
There was some frustration that a cup of coffee was not available nearby, but Mr Farage soon found time for his trademark pint of beer.