Northern Ireland comic Frank Carson has pledged to fund Ukip ‘handsomely’
He’s been a legend on the comedy circuit for decades, best known for his stand-up routine of rapid-fire gags and corny catchphrases.
But now Belfast’s Frank Carson is set to turn his attentions to altogether more serious matters, pledging his support for the hardline eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip) as they try to make a breakthrough in the notoriously closed shop of Northern Ireland politics.
The party is planning to field candidates in May’s council and Assembly elections.
Ukip’s leader Nigel Farage will be travelling to the province next week to open a new headquarters in Bangor and introduce several candidates.
He also claims that he will unveil a “high-profile defector” from another party.
The party’s policy in Northern Ireland includes reducing the number of MLAs at Stormont.
Speaking from his home in Blackpool, Mr Carson said he intends “knocking a few doors” for the party which he sees as providing an alternative to sectarian politics.
“People in Northern Ireland vote for their church, they don’t vote with their heads, it is ridiculous,” he said.
“I will be making a financial contribution. That is what I think they need most from me, so I will fund them handsomely.”
The entertainer has been a generous benefactor to many causes including the integrated education movement, to which he and his son Tony gave £150,000, and a hospice in Jarrow which is named after him.
A papal Knight of St Gregory in recognition of his support for Catholic church causes, he believes religion should be kept out of politics and is proud of his former membership of the Parachute Regiment. He jokes that he would support “an Orangeman for Pope”.
It is the first time the comedian has given his support to a political movement in Northern Ireland since the days of Gerry Fitt, the veteran Labour and nationalist politician who held a seat in the Lords until his death in 2005.
He described Fitt as a personal friend from the same dockland area of Belfast he grew up in.
“I’d like to cut the number of MLAs” he went on. “America has only 100 Senators for 309 million people but Stormont has 108 members for 1.7 million.”
He also believes £70m could be saved by leaving the EU and would be better spent on providing students with grants.
Ukip wants to shut the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies and send the members to Westminster where they would spend one week a month on Scottish or Welsh affairs.
Their manifesto proposes scrapping the Barnett formula which funds the other regional assemblies on the grounds that it “disadvantages English residents”.
Mr Farage added, however, that he would adopt a more cautious approach to Stormont because of the Belfast Agreement.
“We will spell out how this can happen next week but ultimately our view is that in all parts of the UK we have too many layers and too many politicians,” he said.