Speaking in Belfast at an event to launch the Alliance candidates for Westminster and the Councils, David Ford told them that the central
message of this campaign is that Alliance Works.
David Ford said: “The principles and policies that are set out by Alliance are necessary to get Northern Ireland to work. While other parties are
now claiming to belong to the centre, their record shows this is not the case.
“Alliance offers a clear commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law, without any equivocation, and with a commitment to stand up
to the paramilitaries and gangsters.
“Alliance offers a clear agenda to improve community relations, and build a shared future where people can live and learn, work and play, together in safety. In particular, we have highlighted our estimate that around £1 billion is wasted each year in the costs of managing a divided society, money that could be better invested in reducing hospital waiting lists, improving our schools and avoiding punitive water charges.
“Northern Ireland’s future lies in building a united community. Yet, we see the focus falling on the DUP and Sinn Fein, and the UUP and SDLP falling over themselves to outflank their rivals.
“Alliance stands as a real alternative to the failed policies and practices of Unionism and Nationalism.”
Welcoming many of the party’s candidates, David Ford highlighted the diversity of the Alliance team.
He said: “For Westminster, Alliance is contesting 12 constituencies where we have reasonable chances of electing people. Alliance is also fielding 48 candidates for 14 Councils. All of our candidates are now in competitive races, with a real prospect of election.
“I am impressed and proud of the diversity and range of talents of the team. Five of our Westminster candidates are female, i.e. over 40% — a figure that no other local party can match. 17 of our 48 Council candidates are female, that is 35%.
“In Local Government, the stereotype of a councillor is a retired person. Only three, or 6%, of our candidates are over 65. Indeed, the average age is well below 50. Alliance is building up critical mass of candidates aged below 40.
“Let me just highlight two candidates. Barney Fitzpatrick, standing in Coleraine’s Skerries area, is a retired police superintendent, the former district commander there. Elena Aceves-Cully is, I believe, our first Spanish-born candidate. She has lived in the Larne area for ten years and is standing there.
“It is a very positive sign for us that candidates of such ability from such a diverse range of backgrounds are standing for Alliance.
“It is clear from the record that Alliance Works in Local Government.
“Where Alliance has representation, people have come to know and expect a number of things. A record of hard work on behalf of the entire
community. A powerful voice for cross-community and anti-sectarian (and anti-racist) politics. Responsible decision-making.
“No place better demonstrates the track record of Alliance in local government that our contribution in Belfast. The Alliance team has held the balance for the last eight years, and has supplied two Lord Mayors in that time.
“There is no doubt that Belfast is a far better city under the leadership of Tom Ekin than it would be if Alliance did not hold the balance. Alliance has used that position to promote partnership and genuine sharing. Others have depended on us being fair and responsible.
“Alliance will ensure fairness and partnership in all the Councils where we have influence after this election. We will make things work.”
Belfast Lord Mayor, Tom Ekin, added:
“It has been my honour and privilege to serve as Belfast Lord Mayor over the past year.
“And over the past eight years, Alliance has held the balance of power in Belfast.
“The City Hall used to be the by-word for friction, bigotry and ridicule. Today, while there are still problems and tensions, the situation is much better.
“Business is transacted in a fair and transparent way, for the benefit of the whole community.
“We have used our position to ensure rotation of civic offices, and the sharing of committee chairs. Notably, due to the crucial votes for Alliance, Belfast has seen its first nationalists holding the posts of Mayor and Deputy Mayor in the history of the city.
“Belfast has led the way in producing the first Good Relations Policy.
“People know that Alliance will act responsibly, and vote to take the difficult decisions.
“In many respects, Belfast is a microcosm of Northern Ireland. The changes that Belfast is experiencing reflect the wider change occurring in Northern Ireland. The problems facing Belfast reflect the wider problems of Northern Ireland.
“One of my objectives has been to help to turn Belfast into a modern European city, and to promote it and its people to the world.
“For far too long, Belfast has been a place apart. Somewhere characterised by bombs and bullets. The last city in Europe that is still building walls
to keep people separate. People are still being driven from their homes.
“But Belfast is also becoming a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic city.
“During my term in office, like Alliance as a whole, I have been very keen to celebrate that diversity.
“It is something for us to cherish. If you look around the world, the most successful places are those that are most open and diverse. The fact that people want to come to work in Belfast and Northern Ireland from elsewhere in the world is a positive thing.”