Belfast Telegraph

General Election: UUP's Aiken denies ex-PSNI chief North Down recruitment bid, but admits 'private conversations' held

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken
Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken

By Eimear McGovern

Ulster Unionist party leader Steve Aiken has denied he asked the former Chief Constable to stand as the party's candidate in North Down - but said that he has had "many private conversations" with Sir George Hamilton.

Mr Aiken was questioned about assertions by the veteran journalist Brian Rowan that the UUP had approached Sir George to replace Lady Sylvia Hermon as the MP in the constituency on the BBC's The View programme.

It was put to him that senior members of the party had approached Sir George both before and after Lady Sylvia asserted she would not contest the seat.

"Sir George Hamilton and I have known each other for a very long time," said Mr Aiken.

"George and I have had lots of private conversations. He is not running for the Ulster Unionist Party in North Down."

Sir George Hamilton has not been listed as a candidate for either the UUP or any other party in the upcoming General Election on December 12 after nominations closed on Thursday.

"Alan Chambers is our candidate for North Down. [He] was our choice for Westminster. There was only one candidate's name in the frame for North Down," said Mr Aiken

He went on to state he never asked Sir George to stand as the UUP's candidate for the seat. He said: "No, I didn't ask him to run for North Down.

"That is a private conversation between George and I. We've discussed lots of issues."

Independent unionist, Lady Sylvia held the North Down seat since 2001 and is the widow of Sir Jack Hermon, former Chief Constable of the RUC.

Sir George (52) who received his title in the Queen's Birthday Honours, spent five years as the Chief Constable of the PSNI before stepping down in June.

Sir George Hamilton has been contacted for a comment.

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