1989: Civil service chief: Alliance’s “usefulness as a party has been as a catalyst rather than a main player” #20YearRule

Files released today under the 20 year rule contain Sir Kenneth Bloomfield’s August 1989 proposals for ‘a model of consensus government’ – with a structure ’management committee‘ to help set departmental policy under direct rule – included a damning assessment of the Alliance Party, “their usefulness as a party has been as a catalyst rather than a main player”.

Long: “a battle of hope over expectation [but] good work is never wasted” #NWAP17

In her speech to the party’s autumn conference held in Derry, Alliance leader Naomi Long this afternoon called for a way to be found through the current political impasse to “[demonstrate] through words and actions, mutual respect for both British and Irish Identity and our commitment to share this space together, in co-operation rather than conflict”.

Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey suggests slight increase in support for Irish unity and cross-community support for abortion reform

The Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey for 2016, which was carried out last year and the results of which were released today, suggests that support for a united Ireland has increased in the wake of last year’s referendum when the UK voted to leave the European Union. Support for Irish unity amongst the Catholic community was up three percentage points, from 31% to 34%. Whilst this is the highest it has been in this decade so far, it is … Read more

“So let nobody speak of a progressive or anti-Brexit pact either…”

In Saturday’s Irish News, Newton Emerson with some impertinent points about electoral pacts in the forthcoming General Election on June 8.  From the Irish News Sinn Féin has ordered the SDLP to stand down, although sadly not to dump arms, in North Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Let nobody call this a nationalist pact, as that would involve reciprocation and Sinn Féin has not offered to stand down anywhere.  Sinn Féin’s stance is doubly impressive when it risks handing … Read more

Is there an election coming up?

I took the end of last week for half term. That meant minimal social media, no newspapers and not watching or listening to the news. It was a happy couple of days in a little bubble known as the real world. In that world, there is very little inkling that there is an election coming up. Imagine! Even when out and about, Lagan Valley is a poster-free zone so how normal voters who aren’t generally about to watch political programmes … Read more

Are women making their mark in political leadership?

Regardless of whether you agree with their politics or not, the appointment of Michele O’Neill as Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland should be welcomed. Northern Ireland, potentially, could have female First and Deputy First Ministers. Of course that depends on how votes are cast on 2 March, however we now have women leading our two largest parties and if nothing else, it shows that it is possible to reach the top. Combine this with the leadership of Naomi Long … Read more

Trouble at Alliance’s (Lisburn and) Castlereagh mill…

Alliance leading change banner

Oh dear. Going to war election is causing all manner of ruckles inside various political parties, even Alliance. Two councillors Geraldine Rice and Vasundhara Kamble have left the party over allegations of racism and ageism. Rice goes back a long way with Alliance. It’s true, as she says, she played a rearguard action in Peter Robinson’s small state model of a local council in Castlereagh from her first election in 1989 as a local champion for Carryduff (when John D … Read more

“It is not just Stormont that has a Social Investment Fund.”

Newton Emerson in yesterday’s Irish News with some details on the other, less talked about, ‘social investment’ funds out there.  From the Irish News IT is not just Stormont that has a Social Investment Fund. Belfast City Council runs the Belfast Investment Fund and associated Local Investment Fund, with a combined pot of £31 million over three years for ‘community projects’. Alliance has claimed the council funds “aren’t advertised properly in any meaningful way”, leaving “those in the know in prime position to … Read more

EU Special Status, and ignoring the Northern Ireland Assembly…

As Mick noted this morning, Micheal Martin has joined the list of party leaders calling on the Irish and British Governments to negotiate for EU special status for Northern Ireland post-Brexit. At the recent All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit, there was the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said in his speech that the Government needed to uphold the wishes of the Northern Ireland people and secure a special status for the region. “The overriding and principle … Read more

Northern Ireland High Court rejects Brexit Challenges

As the BBC report notes, the High Court in Belfast has dismissed two judicial review challenges to the way the UK Government intends to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union to trigger withdrawal from the EU. One of the legal challenges, by victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord relied on legal aid.  The other, involving Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Green Party and Alliance MLA David Ford, has been funded, directly or indirectly, as the News Letter reported, by US billionaire Chuck Feeney … Read more

Since Naomi Long’s is the only hat in the Alliance party leadership ring…

Deputy leader Naomi Long MP addressing Alliance Conference 2012

And as she does so it becomes clear there are no other candidates. No long damaging and divisive leadership race, and an opportunity to reset the tone and the politics of the party which traded off the competent tenure of David Ford as Justice Minister. But whither now for NI’s middle ground party? In East Belfast she has displaced and relegated the UUPs from second rank to almost nowhere. But where does the middle ground prepare for seat crunch and … Read more

Theresa Villiers: “ultimately it is parliament’s decision whether we repeal the 1972 European Communities Act or whether we don’t.”

Andy’s valiant attempt at providing clarity on the role of the devolved institutions in the UK’s withdrawal from the EU doesn’t appear to have worked for some of our local representatives. The Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, couldn’t have been clearer. “In the weeks and months ahead we will be working with both the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive on all these matters,” [Theresa Villiers] told BBC’s Sunday Politics show. “But ultimately it is parliament’s decision whether we … Read more

Assembly brinkmanship must end soon

In the last mandate David Ford liked to boast that the Alliance party was unique because they had been finally chosen to occupy the Justice department by the whole Assembly rather than selected by the mechanism of D’Hondt.  Because of their status they are more essential to the formation of the Executive than the SDLP despite their fewer numbers. So what’s changed?  A bit of bargaining is ok at a time of maximum leverage but the brinkmanship should end soon. … Read more

Martin McGuinness: “We now wait to see if SDLP will stand by the principles of the Good Friday Agreement or follow the UUP into opposition…”

The response of Sinn Féin’s new MLA for Foyle, Martin McGuinness, to being upstaged – at the moment of his re-appointment as Northern Ireland deputy First Minister – by the UUP leader Mike Nesbitt’s announcement that his party had unanimously agreed to go into official opposition in the NI Assembly, betrayed a confused, or forgetful, party lashing out at sceptics, and potential sceptics, alike.  [Nobody puts Baby in the corner… – Ed] From the Sinn Féin press release [added emphasis throughout] Speaking after … Read more

Subdued Alliance say it’s “time to get Northern Ireland moving forward, faster” #ap2016

SUBDUED & LIBERAL – Today’s Alliance Party conference was subdued compared with last year’s ‘Long election rally’. Delegate numbers were stable, but the palpable passion of 2015 was muted. Liberal values were emphasised as much as sharing and reconciliation, with several speeches mentioning the party’s support for LGBT rights and limited reform of abortion.

A positive case for the bridge linking Ormeau Park and Gasworks

There is a proposal from the Department of Regional Development for a bridge linking the Gasworks with Ormeau Park in South Belfast. Alliance party councillor, Emmet McDonough-Brown writes for us arguing for the bridge… Belfast is a city on the rise.  As we emerge from conflict we find our city growing in confidence and ready to claim its place in these islands as a fantastic place to live in, work in and raise a family in.  Along the way we … Read more

“We say it’s highly improper and unorthodox, effectively OFMDFM are seeking to resist the grant of leave against the Department of Justice.”

A Belfast High Court judge has adjourned the application for a judicial review of the controversial new law criminalising the paying for sex following a last minute intervention by the Northern Ireland Attorney General on behalf of the Office of the NI First and Deputy First Ministers (OFMDFM). Interestingly, as the BBC report notes A barrister representing the [NI Department of Justice] confirmed it was not opposing Ms Lee’s application for a judicial review of the new law, on the basis that an arguable … Read more