UKIP to run former UDR man in West Belfast General Election battle
A top UKIP figure accused of having secret sectarian views is to fight a staunchly republican seat in the general election.
Former UDR soldier Brian Higginson, who has served as a regional organiser for the right-wing anti-immigration party, has been chosen to run for the west Belfast seat in May's national vote.
Sunday Life revealed last month that the Lisburn taxi manager wrote about making "sectarian posts" on Facebook while watching the Sinn Fein party conference last year.
Now the Orange Order member will be trying to win over voters in the constituency, which hasn't returned a unionist candidate since James Kilfedder in 1959.
We revealed in January how party culture spokesman Higginson talked of making a sectarian outburst in a group chat with other prominent Northern Ireland UKIP members on the social media site.
In August last year, he posted in a group conversation entitled "Henry, Ukip and Alan", which included UKIP Northern Ireland chairman Henry Reilly, Northern Ireland party secretary Alan Lewis and others.
Higginson wrote that the Sinn Fein party conference was being broadcast that night and wrote: "Looking forward to it, the Bulmers is going down well, so a few sectarian posts might be in order later."
"Facebook User" then said he should run these remarks past a regional organiser first, to which Higginson replied: "F**k him, these will be personal posts, I feel a nice little outburst coming on John."
Party secretary Alan Lewis wrote in response to this: "Get the bigot tunes on there as well."
Mr Higginson refused to speak to Sunday Life about the posts and there is no suggestion that Henry Reilly or Alan Lewis share his views.
The Belfast West constituency, currently held by Sinn Fein's Paul Maskey, encompasses republican heartlands such as the Falls Road and Andersonstown, but staunchly loyalist areas such as the Shankill Road also lie within its boundaries.
Higginson told a local newspaper last week that he was prepared to knock on every door during his election campaign but that taking the seat would be a "hard ask".
In a statement posted on the party's website, Higginson said: "I will be working to get the UKIP message out to the electorate loud and clear that we are the only viable alternative to the local parties that either boycott Parliament or have little or no say if they attend."
The seat has voted in a nationalist MP in every election since Gerry Fitt stood as a Republican Labour candidate in 1964. Gerry Adams first won the seat from Fitt in 1983 and held it until 1992. The SDLP regained the seat in the 1992 general election but lost to Adams again in 1997 with Sinn Fein holding the seat ever since.