THE Alliance Party announced its candidates for the forthcoming Assembly election this morning (Thursday) at Belfast Castle.
Party Leader David Ford said he was confident that Alliance would increase its vote as the people of Northern Ireland have become disillusioned with the inability of unionism and nationalism to resolve their differences.
Mr Ford said: “Alliance will be running 21 candidates across all 18 constituencies. The party is determined to give every citizen the opportunity to vote for anti-sectarian and cross-community politics. Eight of the 21 are female and 13 male, which must surely be the best gender balance of any party. Five of the candidates are aged under 35 and the oldest is 62.
“Some parties may claim gender or age diversity. No other party can claim to come anywhere close to us in terms of the diversity of religious background.
“We have chosen Belfast Castle today because of the historical significance of the Cavehill and its location. From the top of the hill, you have a view of Belfast that rises above the divisions on the ground. In the other direction, you can see away to the west over this relatively small region.
“It is rare that you don’t see either aircraft or ships, reminding us that we are a part of the wider community of the UK, of Ireland and of Europe.
“Much has been said about the apathy felt by the public towards this election. People here are sick and tired of the incessant bickering, the manufactured crises, the hype, spin and downright lies that have dogged politics for generations and have continued unabated since the Agreement.
“It is time for some plain speaking. Alliance is prepared to ask the awkward questions when others try to obscure the issues. We have a radical vision that is unashamedly cross-community, non-sectarian and committed to building a shared future.
“In recent months, the political process has been hijacked by the Government’s men in grey suits and handed to the men in balaclavas and bowler hats. They have failed us. Alliance is determined to reclaim this process for the people, as it is their future at stake.
“The situation in Northern Ireland has certainly improved since Good Friday 1998. But it is not as good as we all had a right to expect five years ago. Paramilitary activity on both sides continues, with no commitments for all of it to end. The issue now is not whether the so-called ‘war’ is over, but whether paramilitary groups have given up violence and intimidation in all their forms.
“The other parties, whether the hardliners or the so-called ‘moderates’ who – too often – follow their agendas, have not lived up to the promises of five years ago. They do not deserve to be given unfettered power again.
“The candidates who stand with me today on behalf of Alliance are a united team from a range of diverse backgrounds. They are all committed to using the opportunity of the Agreement to move beyond the sectarian squabbling and head-counting that passes for politics here.
“Only Alliance is totally committed to building a united community.”
Profiles of candidates are available from www.allianceworks.org