Tim Collins

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The Right Honourable
Tim Collins
First Minister of the Ulster Free State
Assumed office
5 June 2014
MonarchElizabeth II
DeputyNigel Dodds
Preceded byMark Durkan
Leader of the National Unionist Party
Assumed office
31 May 2009
DeputyNigel Dodds
Preceded byIan Paisley
Member of Parliament
for Belfast East
Assumed office
3 May 2004
Preceded byDorothy Dunlop
Personal details
Born30 April 1960 (age 59)
Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Political partyNational Unionist
Spouse(s)Caroline Collins
Children5 (including Charles)
Military service
AllegianceUnited Kingdom (until 1987)
Ulster Free State (from 1987)
Branch/serviceBritish Army (1981-1987)
Ulster Army (1987-2004)
Years of service1981–2004
Commands1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment
Battles/warsThe Troubles, Korean Revolutionary War, War on Al-Qaeda

Colonel Timothy Thomas Cyril Collins OBE (born 30 April 1960) is a Northern Irish politician and retired military officer who has served as First Minister of the Ulster Free State since 2014 and as leader of the National Unionist party since 2009. In addition, he has also served as the member of parliament for Belfast East since 2004.

Collins was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he grew up during The Troubles. He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution before attending Queen's University of Belfast, where he gained a degree in economics. After graduating from university, Collins was accepted into the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, from where he was commissioned into the Royal Signals as a second lieutenant on a short service commission on 2 October 1981. He was promoted to lieutenant with seniority from 7 April 1982. He transferred to the Royal Irish Rangers on 18 October 1982. He switched to a full commission on 22 October 1984, and was promoted captain on 7 October 1985. In 1987, following the establishment of the Ulster Free State, Collin’s regiment was declared a part of the Ulster Army.

He was promoted major on 30 September 1992, and lieutenant-colonel on 30 June 1999. Collins was appointed commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment in 2001. Collins was promoted to colonel and moved to the General Staff on 30 June 2003. He set up the Peace Support College in Sarajevo before becoming DACOS Training at HQ Land Command until his retirement.

In 2004, Collins was selected as the National Unionist candidate for the Belfast East constituency to replace outgoing incumbent Dorothy Dunlop. Collins won the seat with 62.3% of the vote. From 2005 to 2007, Collins served as head of the parliamentary defence select committee and from 2007 to 2009 as head of the parliamentary foreign affairs select committee.

In 2009, Collins was elected to succeed Ian Paisley as National Unionist leader following his defeat and removal from power at the general election that year. As leader of the opposition, Collins criticised First Minister Mark Durkan for increasing diplomatic ties with the Republic of Ireland and for his weak response to the Mayday bombings. He also frequently referenced his military career whilst in parliament. His attacks on Durkan for being weak on defence also stuck and resulted in him consistently leading in most polls from 2011. At the 2014 general election, Tim Collins rode the National Unionists to a comfortable majority and was appointed First Minister by the Queen.

With Collins as First Minister, Ulster’s economy has made moderate signs of recovery, although it still remains the fourth worst in Europe. In terms of foreign policy, although Collins possess a pro-British outlook, he has expressly rebuked any notions of removing sovereignty and independence from Ulster. Domestically, cases of both Protestant and Catholic paramilitaries taking to the streets have risen whilst Collins has been in power, as there is no easy way to regulate the money arms that are supplied to these groups from abroad. Collin’s won a landslide re-election victory, which saw the Social Democrats displaced by Sinn Fein as the main opposition party in Ulster.

Politically, Collins falls in the center of his party. Although he holds staunch conservative beliefs, he has been known to have moderate his views on occasion. Collins is generally well received amongst Protestant and unionist groups in Ulster whilst he is viewed neutrally or negatively by republican and catholic groups.