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Constituency Profiles: South Antrim

UTV speaks to the politicians vying to represent South Antrim. Photo: UTV

South Antrim is an area with many historical sites, which have been the scene of battles throughout the decades.

The seat itself has also been a bit of a political battleground - between the DUP and the Ulster Unionists.

It is currently held by the Ulster Unionist Party's Danny Kinahan and he is confident he can retain it.

Asked what he felt the main issues are, Mr Kinahan said: “Health, education - underpaid and struggling because Stormont isn’t there, so they want the budget to work.

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“So at Westminster we have to push the ministers and particularly the secretary of state from here to actually make this happen while Stormont is failing.

“The other angle is then coming back here talking to the teachers, principals, nurses and doctors, and finding out what we can do for them.

“I want to carry on where I left off. I want to carry on with the chamber of commerce that I’d set up, with the support groups I set up, in pulling them together.

“There’s so much I was in the middle of and I’ve only had two years there and I would like longer."

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His main challenger is the DUP's Paul Girvan, who is a sitting MLA in the area.

Mr Girvan said: “The message that we’re getting on the ground is probably not relating to Westminster, it’s more about a lack of delivery, in not having an Assembly up and running.

“There is a frustration within the wider community about that and that seems to be the message that’s going forward.

“It’s an interesting constituency in that it has see-sawed over the last number of years from 2000, it has gone back and forward between the DUP and UUP.

“It is a strong unionist seat and as a consequence that’s why we can run two unionist candidates against each other and there’s no need for a pact in South Antrim, because it will be a unionist that wins this seat.”

Credit: UTV

There are other contenders in the race - nationalism saw its vote grow in the recent Assembly elections.

Sinn Féin candidate Declan Kearney said: “Sinn Féin made a pledge that we’ll not go back to the politically corrupt status quo we came from.

“So we need to see a rights-based approach to government, we need to see the equality agenda embraced in order that our political institutions, once re-established here in the north of Ireland, in fact act as a bulwark against the worst excesses of Tory austerity.”

SDLP candidate Roisin Lynch said: “I’m hearing from the people on the ground being absolutely fed up and disillusioned and actually appalled that we’re facing another election.

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“The local issue really is around devolution, they are so fed up and appalled that we’ve had an election on 2 March, we gave the democratic vote to the two largest parties to work for us around our education and health and that hasn’t been delivered.”

Also in the running is the Alliance Party.

Neil Kelly from Alliance said: “The important issues for me in South Antrim are health, education and the economy, they’re the big three we need to concentrate on.

“Obviously to do that we need a functioning Executive in Northern Ireland which we don’t have at the minute.

“We need to have an Executive, we need a programme for government and we need a budget.

“Those services I have mentioned are struggling at the minute, they don’t know what the budget is, they don’t know what the future lies, we need to get that Executive up and running and functioning as quick as possible.”

Within unionism, South Antrim is one of the few seats where the DUP and UUP will go head to head - the competition for this seat is fierce.