Alliance Party conference preview #apni12

Alliance leading change bannerThe Alliance Party conference on Saturday finishes the 2011/12 season of party conferences. [Sinn Fein’s Ard Fheis (which was postponed from last spring to the autumn) will take place at the end of May in Killarney.]

This year Alliance’s venue switches from the mobile not-spot of the Dunadry Hotel to the DUP-favourite mobile not-spot of La Mon Hotel.

Moving on from the party’s recent strapline of “Leading Change”, the 2012 conference theme is ‘Delivering Change” and the morning agenda includes sessions on:

  • Shared Housing in a Shared Future (Judith Cochrane MLA)
  • Delivering Education for Our Children (Trevor Lunn MLA)
  • Delivering for the Whole Community (a panel of councillors chaired by Stewart Dickson MLA)
  • Delivering Skills for our Workforce (Stephen Farry MLA, Minister for Employment and Learning)
  • Delivering at Westminster (Naomi Long MP, deputy leader)

David Ford MLA, Minister of Justice will take to the stage at 12.10, and 45 minutes has been allotted for his party leader speech.

In his leader’s speech in January 2011 David Ford referred to the upcoming Assembly elections and predicted “I think there’s no prospect of us just remaining flat … I certainly believe we’re going to have a significant increase in the seven seats we hold … I certainly think we’re in for a good election”. In the end Alliance only went up from seven to eight seats in the Assembly.

Ford’s speech should provide clues about Alliance’s position on how the party will approach the loss of a minister when the DEL ministry is deleted from the NI Executive table, and may indicate whether David Ford sees himself continuing as Justice Minister.

Two fringe events will run over lunchtime. Include Youth are looking at the Youth Justice Review, while Alliance have organised a Social Media and You session. Unfortunately, there’s no sign of Irish Peace Centres running a fringe event this year. Their 2011 contribution along with its blue sky thinking and 3D word association with polystyrene balls will long remain in my memory!

The afternoon is filled with a series of panels.

  • North-South, East-West – The Next Steps will be chaired by Chris Lyttle MLA (deputy chair of the OFMdFM committee) and will include Labour Shadow Secretary of State Vernon Coaker MP and Fine Gael Brian Hayes TD). At last year’s Alliance conference, Enda Kenny delivered a keynote speech. Soon after he left the Dunadry Hotel, news broke that Brian Cowen had resigned, forcing Enda Kenny’s car to do a U-turn and return to waiting media in the frosty car park. Brian Hayes will be hoping for less drama.
  • Transforming Your Care will be chaired by Kiernan McCarthy MLA (and member of the Assembly Health committee) and will include John Compton, Anne Reilly (Age NI) and Breedagh Hughes (Royal College of Midwives).
  • Delivering Protection for the Environment will be chaired by Anna Lo MLA (who chairs the Assembly Environment committee) and will include Prof Sue Christie (Environment Link) and James Orr (Friends of the Earth). Unlike the Green Party conference, Environment Minister Alex Attwood isn’t in attendance.

After the close of public business, Alliance’s Policy Forum will meet in private.

On the Friday evening, delegates and guests will meet for conference dinner and be addressed by party leader David Ford and the Irish Labour TD and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore (who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade). On the eve of last year’s Alliance party conference, former UUP/UCUNF candidate Harry Hamilton defected to the Alliance. This year, after their Friday night dinner, the Freddie Mercury impersonator will take to the stage as Flash Harry and provide a couple of hours of entertainment.

Update – The #all12 hashtag was too simple, so online opinion is veering towards using #apni12 …

, , , ,

  • cynic2

    I must go., Wit my insomnia a good sleep will be ideal

  • andnowwhat

    Well, the Alliance did indulge in one bit of real politics when they supported their sister party’s welfare reforms.

    Almost 2 years ago now when Long denied they and the LibDem’s were connected. Actions Naomi not words will the truth be known by.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “dwatch (profile) 15 July 2011 at 9:55 am
    Lambderg, “I can only guess that you are including Alliance in with the Unionists. I choose not to do so, I do not regard Alliance as a Unionist party.”

    USA, neither does the alliance party but when it comes to election time alliance party candidates only successfully win seats in predominately Unionist protestant areas East of the Bann.

    When it comes to issues (like flying a Union flag on the City Hall) alliance councillors either vote with the Unionists or abstain. If any alliance councillor (say from East Belfast) supported SF on the flag issue he/she can say goodbye to their council seat at the next election”

    I agree with the above post from 2011. What gets me about the Alliance party is that they cannot be honest on the issue.

  • Granni Trixie

    Mr Tyrone: same old rigmarole. same points from myself namely that in practice you will find APNI to be a catch all party in that there are people (like myself) who in a normal situation identify with Labour ) , many more who identify with LIBDEMS which is to be expected in a party which espouses liberal values, some (fewer) with Conservative leanings. I have heard many Protestant members say they would ‘love’ to be in a United Ireland and others happily Unionist. My impression is however that compromise and cross community values are more important to them than any political or national idemtitymajority do not feel strongly about

  • Granni Trixie

    Oops sorry that piece flew away….

    Incase there is any doubt the differences whilst a strength are also something to be managed as there is therefore a built in potential for conflict.
    As for Naomi deciding not to take the LibDem whip well I think that was a shrewd decision as it leaves her free to participate and vote according to the interests of NI (otherwise a hostage to fortune).

  • Should link to the animated Alliance party political broadcast that’s running before Saturday’s conference …

  • In an uncomfortable place here defending the Alliance Party but they did the decent thing over the Christams sign in Irish a few months ago.
    A different party of course now in 2012 than they were in 1973. Ruthless in my view……more professional in their view.
    And well funded (£98,000 since 2007)….from England.

    Their constitutional position is unionist/agnostic but likely to be more unionist because of the defection of Hamilton, Bradshaw and Parsley.
    All three would happily have sat on Tory benches had they won in 2010 and I cant see any seamless transition although one is now on AP Executive.
    Their prominence will have no real effect on the Assembly set up but East Antrim will be a nice little sideshow. But there will be a knock on effect limiting the potential of up and coming AP people (Curran) and some who stood in 2010……Muir, Grellis, Heading.Another sideshow.
    As will the Ford/Long/Farry dynamic set against the loss of an Executive seat. …and the likely loss of East Belfast next time.
    And the continuing bizarre relationship with Sinn Fein & DUP.
    This Conference is essentially a reality check for them.

  • Actually Granni Trixie puts it very well.
    There are situations “to be managed”.
    Their friends will hope they manage them well.
    Their enemies will hope they manage them badly.

    The most likely result is that they manage some situations better than other situations.

  • Comrade Stalin

    tyrone_taggart:

    When it comes to issues (like flying a Union flag on the City Hall) alliance councillors either vote with the Unionists or abstain.

    Perhaps you could remind me.

    Who voted for Alban Maginness to be the city’s first Catholic mayor in 1997 ?

    Who voted for Alex Maskey to be the first Sinn Fein mayor ?

    Who voted last year to stop the unionists forming a combined bloc in order to control the Mayor and deputy Mayor roles ?

    Who voted for the Irish language signs at city hall this year ?

    If any alliance councillor (say from East Belfast) supported SF on the flag issue he/she can say goodbye to their council seat at the next election”

    So why did Alliance top the poll in Pottinger ?

    FJH:

    Their constitutional position is unionist/agnostic but likely to be more unionist because of the defection of Hamilton, Bradshaw and Parsley.

    If you think that three members can change the course of a party’s policies by themselves then you must be a believer in homeopathy.

    All three would happily have sat on Tory benches had they won in 2010 and I cant see any seamless transition although one is now on AP Executive.

    Bear in mind that there were defections from Tory to Labour and AFAIK in one case one even became a Labour cabinet minister. It’s not right that people should forever be condemned for the sins of their past.

    I think it is indicative of your narrow and outdated perspective that you immediately assume that Alliance would take on the characteristics of the new defectors, rather than the other way around. That would only be true if Alliance had no substance at all; and while I’m sure you believe that, it’s not a characteristic I would associate with the party these days.

    But there will be a knock on effect limiting the potential of up and coming AP people (Curran)

    I’m lost as to how Alliance could be described as a party that limits the ambitions of new members. South and East Belfast are Alliance’s largest associations, yet the more senior members selected newbie Cathy Curran for a winnable seat; likewise Judith Cochrane and Chris Lyttle. And of course Naomi Long was in the party for a clatter of years before she got elected to BCC, to the Assembly for East Belfast, to deputy Leader and then MP.

    I think you allow your prejudices to cloud your view of reality too much.

    As will the Ford/Long/Farry dynamic set against the loss of an Executive seat. …and the likely loss of East Belfast next time.

    East Belfast won’t exist; the new seat will become an Alliance/nationalist marginal and the informed numbers are betting that, with a headwind, Long will retain the seat.

  • tyrone_taggart

    Granni Trixie

    “My impression is however that compromise”

    Compromise is hard! It often doing that which makes you uncomfortable and standing for a principle.

    I raised the issue of the flag with the Alliance party when they was raising the issue of greater use of European identity. I said they could use the European flag on city hall. It was depressing the responses that I got.

  • tyrone_taggart

    Comrade Stalin:

    The fact that you think it was radical for the Alliance party to vote for Nationalists to be mayor, makes me wonder how you think Unionists get to be head of majority “nationalist” councils without Alliance support?

  • tyrone_taggart

    fitzjameshorse1745

    ” the Alliance Party but they did the decent thing over the Christams sign in Irish a few months ago.”

    Why do you think it was a “decent thing” rather than a “normal thing”?

  • IJP

    In there is an interesting challenge for all political parties: do you want people from other parties to join yours, or not?

    At basic level, you must do – in that you want people who vote for other parties to switch their vote to yours.

    It probably follows, therefore, that you want people who were members of other parties to switch their membership to yours. Of course, that will increase competition for positions – on the other hand, it will be evidence of increasing support (thus more positions to compete for, at least electorally).

    At that stage, when you accept the new member, you have a decision: you can say “Nice to have you but you’ll just have to wait your turn” (in which case not too many more will follow); or you can say “You’re an equal member with every one else and feel free to go ahead and stand for party positions, selection etc”.

    Sensible parties do the latter, of course, which is why in fact two of the names mentioned were elected to the Party Executive by the Party Council in a competitive election, and one ran for the Assembly last year. New party members do not have any special rights, but nor are they to be especially hindered.

    It’s all part of the problem of managing a growing party – a problem quite a few others would like to have, no doubt.

  • IJP

    Comrade

    Indeed the last two Secretaries of State under Labour had previously been members of other main UK parties (one Conservative, one Liberal).

  • Tyrone Taggart,
    In my book,,,decency and normality are the same thing.
    AP did the decent thing. As indeed they often have.
    The election of two of the names I mentioned to the Alliance Party so soon after defecting from UUP might well suggest.
    1 …that indeed they have been accepted right away.
    2….it might be called “fast tracking” but many comments from AP people around late 2010 were of the opinion that there should be no fast tracking. My own opinion for what its worth is that selecting Harry Hamilton just a few months after his defection was extremely sensible. Upper Bann was a good result for Alliance in 2011. In 2010 the local party did not even know they had a candidate until they saw Brendan Heading on TV.
    3….the election of two (avowed unionist-Tory candidates) of the above suggests that there is a considerable number of people who share their vision of the Alliance Party. Which of course DOES indicate a possible change of direction.

    Of course….as has been pointed out these are situations to be “managed”…..and I am sure that older Alliance hands (especially those who lean to the centre-left) are just a little bit wary.
    They should be.

  • tyrone_taggart

    fitzjameshorse1745

    “AP did the decent thing. As indeed they often have.”

    Then why not vote Sinn Fein they are often doing the decent thing????

    Fitz I think you are confusing getting the rigth candidate with having a point to your existence. Currently I do not see what the Alliance party brings other than saying “we are not one of the other parties” and yes we often do the decent thing .

  • Granni Trixie

    FJH

    Fair enough. But you are completely wrong in the assumption you make in point 3.

  • Granni Trixie

    Tyrone
    it hasn’t gone away you know. sectarianism.
    So Alliance keepsake dri it on the agenda and tries to ensure there are resources to tackle it. It also exists to make the case for sharing.
    Most of all APNI has policies and solutions to problems driven by what is good for all ie not driven by having to appeal to nationalism or unionist bases.

  • Granni Trixie

    Sorry for another typho (due to this iPad thingy filling in words for me when my back is turned. That ought to have read “Aliance keeps it on the agenda”

  • tyrone_taggart

    Granni Trixie

    “Most of all APNI has policies and solutions to problems driven by what is good for all”

    Which sf/sdlp polices do you think are not?

  • tyrone_taggart

    Granni Trixie

    “Tyrone, it hasn’t gone away you know. sectarianism.”

    I know the Alliance party cannot even bring itself to take down the Union jack from City hall.

  • Granni Trixie

    Where would you start? I think a good example however is SF “policy” to place advertisements in Irish as wel as English. yes they would claim its a mater of equality and recognition but I call it wasteful.
    Both the parties you mention also dragged their feet in relation to supporting the police.

  • There is an excellent Slugger thread 4th November 2010…..and most of the 160 comments show a lot of agreement. Granni Trixie, Comrade Stalin and myself included.

    As Comrade wrote then “thats the trouble with jumping ship, you can really only do it once and hope to get away with it and even then its tight”.
    He also pointed out that in the event of retiring MLAs there are “local people……would fare better at selections”
    Also he stated that it was not impossible that Ian Parsley would rejoin AP but he “knows as much as anyone else how silly it would make him appear”.

    In fairness when Comrade suggested that he would publicly eat his hat if there was any fast tracking he would have been unaware of the later defection of Harry Hamilton. Was he fast tracked in 2011? No matter. It was a sensible decision.

    As has been observed the election of two of the three to AP office was a competitive election but it does suggest that they are in a position of influence rather more quickly than could be anticipated.
    While fully taking Granni Trixies point (she will forgive me for suggesting she is a left of centre veteran) that I cant assume that the election of two defectors to positions of influence within AP..indicates that there is a considerable number of people who share that erstwhile Tory vision.
    Indeed I am very glad to hear that folks are still alert to the danger.

  • tyrone_taggart

    Granni Trixie
    “I think a good example however is SF “policy” to place advertisements in Irish as wel as English. yes they would claim its a mater of equality and recognition but I call it wasteful.”

    Good for you. I take it you think that is the Alliance party view?

    From a European point of view:

    The UK signed the “European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML)” so the Alliance party as good Europeans should actually be encouraging the protection of the Irish Language.

    From a UK point of view:
    Its what the other devolved governments do.

    From a NI point of view:
    What do you think your view of the matter is?

  • Granni Trixie

    My understanding is that the Alliance people at City Hall went with the compromise to have th flag flown on certain designated days. Seems reasonable to me otherwise you are “banning” what matters to sizeable numbers.
    FJH: on principle more or less anyone can join Alliance even former defectors . But Tory admirers are not likely to win over many of us. so what? Put it this way. should a former terrorist apply to join I would think on principle that they could as long as they were now nonviolent.
    (though this would be a more interesting scenario).

  • tyrone_taggart

    Granni Trixie :

    “My understanding is that the Alliance people at City Hall went with the compromise to have th flag flown on certain designated days.”

    Compromise? Who came up with it and do you think that Alliance would support the flying of Irish Flag on say St patricks day on other local council offices?

    Seems reasonable to me otherwise you are “banning” what matters to sizeable numbers.”

    If that is there view then why did they not say the Irish national flag should be allowed on Belfast st Patrick’s day parade?

  • Granni Trixie

    alliance vision is based on a fair society and its policy is indeed to support Irish as a minority language. it also matters as it is an identiy marker of many people. I personally think that in present economic circumstances it is madness to have advertisements in Irish (or Ulster Scots for that matter). I think that having resources for Irish education is a much more sensible way to protect the language. However it may be that I am out of sinc with party policy on this but there you go.

  • tyrone_taggart

    Granni Trixie

    “alliance vision is based on a fair society”

    Do you know of a single party on the Island that does not say the same thing?

    “present economic circumstances it is madness to have advertisements in Irish”

    In the last 50 years when would have been a good time to have put advertisement in Irish into newspapers?

  • boz

    tyrone_taggart: The designated days for flags is UK wide. Alliance are damned by nationalists if they keep it up and damned by Unionists if they keep it down. Designated days is a compromise which SF, I believe, were or are moving towards.

    What about flying flags for special occations to celebrate the diversity of Belfast? Would the DUP councillors have a rainbow flag flying on City Hall for Belfast Pride?

    As for the tricolour, I understand the nationalist view on that – I think – but they also have to understand that by agreeing with the GFA that they accept that NI is currently part of the UK.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The fact that you think it was radical for the Alliance party to vote for Nationalists to be mayor

    Where did you get that idea ?

    Up there you wrote a complete lie when you said that Alliance always voted with the unionists or abstained. I provided a couple of high profile examples from recent memory which were pretty much front page headlines at the time where Alliance voted against the unionists. Indeed on a couple of those occasions the unionists all walked out in protest.

    If you are going to post completely uninformed nonsense, it’s good manners to admit when you are wrong. Not change the subject.

    , makes me wonder how you think Unionists get to be head of majority “nationalist” councils without Alliance support?

    It seems pretty clear that you are a person obsessed with sectarian headcounts and you focus on nothing except totting up the number of prods ‘n’ taigs anytime something happens. Since this is the opposite of what Alliance is about, I guess none of us should be particularly surprised that the modus operandi of the party is something you have difficulty getting your head around.

    I know the Alliance party cannot even bring itself to take down the Union jack from City hall.

    The party is in favour of a flag policy that is equivalent with the rest of the UK, why not ?

    The reason why the country is in a mess is because people like your good self vote for politicians because of their opinion on whether there should be a flag or not. The next time you see Stormont debating flags, language, cultural symbols or whatever else rather than employment, I hope you are happy.

  • tyrone_taggart

    Comrade Stalin:
    “Up there you wrote a complete lie when you said that Alliance always voted with the unionists or abstained.”

    That was “dwatch (profile) 15 July 2011 at 9:55 am”

    “It seems pretty clear that you are a person obsessed with sectarian headcounts ”

    I was responding to your post:

    “Perhaps you could remind me.

    Who voted for Alban Maginness to be the city’s first Catholic mayor in 1997 ?

    Who voted for Alex Maskey to be the first Sinn Fein mayor ?” (was that a sectarian post?)

    “The party is in favour of a flag policy that is equivalent with the rest of the UK, why not ?”

    So Alliance want the Union jack to fly on St Patricks day but think the public should not go to parades with the Irish flag?

  • tyrone_taggart

    boz (profile) 20 April 2012 at 1:12 am
    “tyrone_taggart: The designated days for flags is UK wide.”

    You can carry an Irish flag in the London on St Particks day but not it Belfast. Still Alliance think its not then an issue to wish to fly the Union Jack on the same day they do not want members of the public to carry an Irish flag????

  • Drumlins Rock

    Tyrone taggart, how about carrying the Tricoulour and Union Jack side by side on St Patricks day?

  • tyrone_taggart

    Drumlins Rock (profile) 20 April 2012 at 5:14 pm
    “Tyrone taggart, how about carrying the Tricoulour and Union Jack side by side on St Patricks day?”

    I would bann all flags in Ulster for 20 years.

  • Reader

    tyrone_taggart: You can carry an Irish flag in the London on St Particks day but not it Belfast.
    Organise your own parade and you can carry whatever flags you like, more or less. But the city centre route is probably already booked for a cross community event on that day. There are plenty of other possible routes.

  • tyrone_taggart

    Reader
    ” But the city centre route is probably already booked for a cross community event on that day. ”

    Would “city hall” not be a cross community place?

  • Tyrone Taggart. Not a Unionist party probably, but a unionist party definitely. Especially since Ford took over.

  • That ‘apni’ abbreviation is a tad unfortunate in relation to Alliance as it’s rather close to sleep apnea.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “Not a Unionist party probably, but a unionist party definitely.”

    I would say UUP lite, they have principles, lots of them, just pick a candidate they think will get elected and they will agree with them.