Here is the speech from David Ford (check against delivery): “Change is not a word that many people associate with elections in Northern Ireland.
“The parties of unionism and nationalism, representing the politics of another time, don’t want it. Journalists and commentators don’t expect it. And however much voters would like to see it, many people don’t believe it is possible.
“But we believe change is possible. That’s why we’re making change the central theme of the Alliance campaign for the elections one month from today, on the 5th of May.
“Because this party has been in the business of change – the business of leading change – since the day and hour it was formed.
“Where we have seen change in recent years, it has been in areas in which Alliance has taken the lead for many, many years:
· A political settlement based on the fundamentals of the principle of consent, a devolved Assembly based on power-sharing, and strong North-South co-operation, fully accountable to the Assembly and the Dail;
· The increasing acceptance that integrated and shared education is the best model for educating our children;
· and a local police service that upholds the very highest standards of human rights and which enjoys the support of our whole community;
“To name just three. These have all been fundamental tenets of this party’s analysis since the 1970’s. We didn’t accept then that change wasn’t possible, and we don’t accept it now.
“Of course, there are those who point to these changes as evidence that the old political blocks have moved towards the future that we have been working for; who will argue that the fact that these changes have happened means that we have achieved our ambitions.
“But they’re wrong. Totally wrong. These achievements are the foundations on which we will continue build a new society, not the ceiling to our ambitions. Over the next four weeks we will go door-to-door, and take part in public and media debates, to explain to people how much further we want our community to go.
“We will set out our vision of a society where everyone can live, work and socialise together in safety; a better place to live – better meaning more peaceful, prosperous, open, welcoming and vibrant. Real change that real people actually want. A society where separations and divisions will start to be dismantled, and with them the heavy cost burden we currently carry to pay for our divisions.
“We will launch our most comprehensive policy manifesto ever, following on the heels of the legislative programme we launched a few weeks ago. Anyone reading these documents will see that the level of ambition that I brought to the reform of the justice system over the last year is matched by the scale of our ambitions for our health service, our education system, our economy and our environment.
“And ambitious is a good description for the candidates with me this morning, and a good description for the Alliance Party as a whole. Over the last year we have taken our first seat in the Executive, and shown ourselves able for one of the toughest jobs in government. We have recruited more members, from a more diverse range of backgrounds than ever before. The movement for change is growing.
“I can’t leave a meeting in Party Headquarters these days without signing another set of letters welcoming new members. People are submitting membership forms one day and asking to stand for election the next. For both the Assembly and local councils we are running in more areas, and with more candidates, representing a greater diversity of background, than ever before.
“And, of course, we launch that campaign against the backdrop of East Belfast, where last year we saw the election of our first Westminster MP. Anyone who thought change wasn’t possible didn’t count on the people of that constituency. People who imagined what change would look like, believed that it was possible, and voted to make it happen. People who decided that they wanted to join us in leading change.
“And so today we launch the next phase in our campaign for change. A campaign that we have been building for decades, and which more and more people are beginning to believe in. We will put a vision of a changed Northern Ireland before our community, and invite them to join us; to lead change; to vote Alliance. And I believe, on the basis of what we have seen over the last year, and on what we are already hearing on the doorsteps, that people will respond.
“Indeed, we are ambitious enough to believe that we can increase both the number of Alliance Councillors and our number of MLAs.
“Enough Assembly Members to guarantee a seat on the Executive under the current system for appointing Ministers. If I am returned as Justice Minister that would mean two Alliance Ministers at the Executive table.
“Two Alliance Ministers, pledged to deliver change within their departments and to drive the Executive towards a new level of joined-up-government.
“That’s not an ambition for our Party – that’s an ambition for our community. So today we say to that community: Lead Change. Vote Alliance.”