Belfast Telegraph


By Noel McAdam

One major political figure is likely to lose out in the pivotal Strangford contest - and it will most likely be a unionist.

Three current DUP Ministers - Economy Minister Simon Hamilton, Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen and Education Minister Peter Weir - are all running in the coastal constituency, along with former Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell who is determined to inflict some damage to the DUP which suspended him during the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.

To that heady mix must be added Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt who should keep his seat unless too many UUP voters decide to get Bell a protest lift, or punish the UUP chief for giving his own second preference vote to the SDLP in east Belfast.

With one seat likely to go to Alliance - Kellie Armstrong is their candidate - even bookmakers Sean Graham said the reduction from six seats to five had transformed Strangford from predictable to “very interesting”.

Bell was, of course, among the four candidates the DUP ran in the constituency last time but the party will be going all out to hold onto three. On that basis, the UUP’s second candidate Philip Smith could be the loser.

The SDLP veteran Joe Boyle is running for a fifth time but this is a constituency which has never elected a nationalist.

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