At a special meeting of its Party Council tonight, the Alliance Party took the decision to endorse and campaign for John Gilliland in the forthcoming European Elections rather than fielding its own candidate.
Speaking after the meeting, Alliance Leader David Ford said:
“Europe is not a place for petty party politics. The last thing we need is old-fashioned politicians campaigning on the same old issues, while Northern Ireland continues to fall further and further behind in a constantly evolving European Union.
“There are real changes coming as a result of European enlargement. We need someone who can stand up for Northern Ireland, and provide quality representation for the whole community.
“John Gilliland has a track record of delivering practical results for Northern Ireland. He has experience in social, economic and environmental areas, working with business, trade unions and the voluntary sector. He has more experience than any of the other candidates, and would be an MEP that we could all be proud of.
“Five years ago, Alliance tried to build a wider coalition for the European elections. This time, over some months, Alliance representatives have been participating in informal discussions with many others on how to get anti-sectarian parties and civic society working more closely together.
“I am pleased that John Gilliland has announced his candidacy, and that many people are already flocking to his cause. People do want to see parties working in co-operation with each other and civic society for the good of Northern Ireland.
“While John is not an Alliance member, he shares our cross-community, non-sectarian values and is committed to continue engaging positively with Europe for the good of the whole community.
“The constitutional future of Northern Ireland is not at stake in this European Election, so there is much more scope for the voters to move beyond traditional politics. As an independent candidate, John is the best person to take this opportunity.
“Alliance is not standing aside from this election. Rather, our Party Council has taken the strategic decision to officially support John, and Alliance members will be actively campaigning for him on the ground.
“At this time of continued political squabbling between Unionists and Nationalists, it is time that we all had a new and positive voice in Europe.”
The Party Council is the governing body of the Alliance Party, with responsibility for selecting European candidates.
In the light of John Gilliland’s announcement that he is to stand for Europe, a special meeting of the Party Executive made a recommendation that Alliance should endorse John and participate in his campaign. The proposal was carried by an overwhelming majority.