Video: Former South Antrim MP Willie McCrea looks forward to his next challenge

DUP veteran Rev William McCrea has lost none of the fighting spirit and determination that has charactised his 42 years in the frontline of Ulster politics.

Breaking his silence for the first time since losing his South Antrim seat in the May general election, he didn’t rule out a return to Westminister.

William McCrea at the Antrim and Newtownabbey count - DUP MP'24-05-14'taken by Adam Kula

William McCrea at the Antrim and Newtownabbey count - DUP MP'24-05-14'taken by Adam Kula

“At present I am reflecting on my life and looking forward to my next challenge,” he told me at his Magherafelt home.

Dismissing speculation that he was considering taking a seat in the House of Lords, the 66-year-old said, “I will tell you that I have no intention of hanging up my boots and doing nothing.”

The Ulster Unionist Party’s Danny Kinahan took the seat from the Calvary Free Presbyterian minister by just 949 votes.

Mr McCrea, who held the seat for ten-and-a-half years, is philosophical about his defeat, pointing out that proposed boundary changes “will swing the seat back to the DUP”.

He said the TUV “with whom I share a lot of views” took votes from him and Mr Kinahan was helped across the line by votes from Alliance, SDLP and some Sinn Fein voters.

“I’m not sitting around groaning and moaning about it,” he laughs. He believes God intended it to happen and “I will not rebel against his will.”

He revealed that after the election defeat, a colleague offered him his seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

“It was a genuine offer but I declined as I want time to reflect and get ready for the next challenge,” he continued, revealing that he has been invited to Gospel singing and preaching events in Kenya, Australia and Uganda.

In recent weeks he has been busy winding up his constituency offices in Ballyclare and Antrim and this has “hurt me more than anything.”

“My office staff provided an excellent service to all members of the community regardless of religion or whether they be rich or poor, and I have no doubt this will be missed,” he continued.

“In fact, I have been getting calls lately from people asking me William can you help us with this, or that, and I have to tell them I no longer can help.

“I have not lost out. The people of South Antrim have lost out on a service that was second to none.”

He doesn’t believe Danny Kinahan will hold on to the seat. “He is a one-term MP,” he claimed. “People elect you to carry out the day-to-day bread and butter issues and they will soon find you out.”

The former Mid Ulster MP - he held the seat from 1983 to 1997 - when he lost to Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, says he plans to spend more time advising his Assembly member son Ian during his period of reflection.

“I know the area and its people very well,” he added.