Election Review: Alliance secures extra Lisburn seat
Alliance News
April-June 2014

MARTIN Stephen 20110122The new Lisburn and Castlereagh Council will include a strong Alliance presence after the party saw seven of its nine potential candidates elected.

And in a further show of strength Alliance took four seats in the Lisburn area — one more than the three the party has only ever held.

Councillor Stephen Martin — Deputy Presiding Officer of the new Council — said the group were delighted with the result.

He added: “We have to say thank you to everyone locally and across the party who helped secure victory for Alliance. We must also thank the voters who stepped forward to vote for us, believing in our message of a united society and shared future for everyone.

“We are all committed to working for everyone in our area and we look forward to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

“As the new Lisburn and Castlereagh Council gets down to business I am both honoured and delighted to serve as Deputy Presiding Councillor and looking forward to working with all my colleagues as the new Council begins to establish itself.”

Election Review: Lo achieves best ever European election result
Alliance News
April-June 2014

Anna Lo Alliance Party conference 2011. Picture by Bernie BrownAnna Lo achieved the best ever result in Europe in the party’s history, securing 7.1% of the overall vote.

Running on a pro-European agenda — with community relations and environmental issues featuring highly on her radar — voters identified with Anna’s vision of how Northern Ireland could benefit from Europe.

She said: “I aimed high to achieve the best possible result for the party and am delighted to have achieved this.

“The campaign took me to all corners of Northern Ireland and let me meet some really interesting people — people who would only benefit further from at least one pro-European MEP. Sadly the same three MEPs will return to Europe, but not without knowing the pro-Europe vote has risen.

“I also want to thank all the volunteers who canvassed with me and for me — you helped achieve this fantastic result.

“Alliance has proven it can deliver change both in Northern Ireland, through our MLA and Council teams, and at Westminster, through Naomi Long MP. We are on the move in Europe and I hope to see this vote continue to rise until Alliance is representing everyone at a European level.”

Election Review: Party reclaims North Belfast seat
Alliance News
April-June 2014

McALLISTER NualaThe election of Nuala McAllister in North Belfast saw Alliance take its first seat in ten years in that party of the city.

Originally joining Alliance because she wanted to be part of an integrated movement, Nuala put herself forward to run for council in North Belfast because she believed she could do better than the current political leadership in the area.

With her chances of taking a seat not secure, Nuala hit the campaign trail hard, meeting with residents and attending community meetings, to outline how having an Alliance representative could benefit them.

Looking back on the campaign, Nuala said: “I think what I enjoyed the most about the campaign was the canvassing. Whilst it was tough, when you met one person who was so supportive and was extra lovely to you, it just made what you were doing all worthwhile.

“That and 10pm on polling day — it was like the feeling you used to get doing your last exam, that this is it, in the next day or two you will know whether you have made it or not.

“Whenever we first realised that I may actually have secured a seat, the nerves really started kicking in. I refused to believe I had done it until the moment my name was called and I was deemed to be elected. You literally could not have lifted the smile from my face. Knowing what this meant for the party was a sweet satisfaction. I didn’t just do this for me; we did it for Alliance.”

Looking forward she added: “I want to deliver integration of services in the community, in particular from the new community powers that Belfast City Council will have.

“I want to use these powers to facilitate good relations within the community and ensure that good relations is at the heart of all community planning services. I want to make sure that I am held as a positive ambassador for North Belfast, and aim to work for everyone.”

Election Review: Alliance takes shock seat in Rowallane
Alliance News
April-June 2014

BROWN PatrickThe Alliance Party pulled off one of the biggest shocks in the local government elections — taking a second seat on the new Newry Mourne & Down Council at the expense of the Ulster Unionists.

Running for election was not on Patrick Brown’s radar until an interview with David Ford — as part of his dissertation on the peace process — led him to agreeing to stand as a paper candidate in Rowallane.

Fast forward eight weeks and as Patrick was handing in his dissertation at Sheffield University on the morning of the court, little did he or anyone else realise he would be an elected representative by the end of the day.

And certainly no one was aware of the political upset that would unfold as Patrick went on to unseat long-standing UUP Councillor Walter Lyons — leading to UUP protestations against a candidate who they argued even failed to even put up any posters.

Patrick Brown said: “I am incredibly fortunate to be a Rowallane representative in the new council and am very honoured and excited to represent local people. I will work hard to ensure my election benefits them.

“Having already run for the party in 2011, David [Ford] recognised me from that election and asked me why I wasn’t a candidate this time. By the time the interview had finished, David had convinced me to run again.

“While no one expected me to get the seat, I am absolutely delighted to get the opportunity to represent Alliance in Newry, Mourne and Down. Along with Patrick Clarke, I am committed to working hard to deliver a new shared society for everyone in the area.”

Election Review: Thoughts from the election count
Alliance News
April-June 2014

Campaigns Officer Sam Nelson gives his thoughts from the campaign

For all those involved in the election count process — whether candidates, verification and counting agents or family relatives — there was a lot of time to deliberate on the first Northern Ireland elections in three years.

First of all, I don’t think I was alone when I was looking forward to the end of the 2014 campaign. There is little doubt, with boundary changes; a volatile and polarised political atmosphere; and no election in three years, there was a lot of unknown variables at play.

Despite this challenging atmosphere, the party came together and worked hard to deliver a solid local government result and the best ever result in Europe. To this end, I would like to thank all the candidates, agents, organisers, campaigners and staff who helped deliver this success.

During the third day of counting I began looking at the patterns of results across Northern Ireland, in relation to expected results. The thing that struck me most was that the party had held its ground in the face of some of the worst intimidation ever experienced by a Northern Ireland party in recent times.

In post-conflict divided societies, periods of increased tensions tend to result in a serious loss of votes for the ‘middle-ground’ parties, as voters’ insecurities take over. Historically, Northern Ireland has not been any different. However, in these elections the ‘middle-ground’ vote marginally increased, something of a watershed moment.

Those who said the Alliance Party was finished had failed to understand the strength of feeling towards the party’s pioneering vision of a shared society, free from intimidation, discrimination and fear, where everyone is safe and treated fairly and with respect — a society for everyone.

Over the past two years, with many of our political reps and high profile members coming under significant personal threat, the party can hold its head high in how it came together to stand up for its core principles, securing its democratic right to represent the silent majority in Northern Ireland.

However, we cannot stop there. We have another two years of hugely important elections ahead, starting with retaining our Westminster seat in East Belfast. Naomi’s main opposition — the DUP — lost ground in these elections. I have no doubt their attempts to win back the seat by stirring up political tensions and fears has severely back-fired.

We can now step forward into the next campaign with a confident platform, working together to retain our seat in Westminster.

Just like the rest of Northern Ireland, the majority of people in East Belfast want more than sectarian bickering from their politicians. It is up to us to engage with the voters and once again prove that Alliance offers the only viable way forward. No matter where you are based, there will be plenty of opportunities to lend a hand in East Belfast and make the biggest statement we can — we will not be bullied by a minority intent on taking Northern Ireland backwards.

Over the next two years we can be thinking back from the election counts, pondering the significance of the 2014 election result. There is no doubt in my mind that it is one of the most important in the history of the Alliance Party, a platform from which our future strength is built upon.

Election Review: Alliance on course for further successes
Alliance News
April-June 2014

Stephen Farry MLA outlines why the party’s election results show positive growth for the Alliance message.

Alliance has emerged from the 2014 elections with its credibility and standing significantly increased.

The European election and the local government elections to the new eleven super-councils were the first electoral test in Northern Ireland for just over three years. This was in fact the longest gap between regional elections since the early 1990s. However, arguably more events and developments have occurred in the intervening years to 2014, creating a greater sense of volatility. This was compounded by a new set of local government boundaries — again the first changes since the early 1990s.

In the European election, Alliance achieved its best ever result, with 7.1% of the vote. This was a reflection of the growing strength of the party and the wide appeal of Anna Lo across the community.

It is beyond dispute that a significant number of people were voting for an Alliance candidate for the first time in any election. At the same time, the centre ground was arguably more congested with both the Greens and the first outing for NI21. Alliance notably saw off the presumed electoral threat from NI21, and it is worth recalling that people went to the pols before the real implosion of that new party. This notional centre ground vote broke through the 10% barrier. While this European election was the best ever result for Alliance, it also provided the worst ever result for both the UUP and SDLP.

With respect to the local government elections, Alliance secured 6.9% of the seats on 6.7% of first preferences. While it was disappointing to lose some sitting councillors and also to miss out narrowly on winning some seats, this result stands up well against the 2011 election result, which itself saw the party achieving an almost 50% increase in representation. With a reduced number of seats available across Northern IReland, the party’s number of seats, in what was again a more crowded market, was more or less on a pro rata basis with the 2011 election.

There was much speculation and even anticipation in certain quarters that Alliance would suffer in the aftermath of the flag issue in Belfast. Yet the party gained seats in Belfast, and is now the third largest bloc of seats there, ahead now of both the UUP and SDLP. Notable gains were also made in Lisburn and Castlereagh, and in Newry, Mourne and Down.

These elections were the most professional organised by the party staff. In terms of strategy, tactics and messaging, the campaign will be reviewed and positive lessons learned to position the party for further success in the forthcoming Westminster and Assembly elections in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Election Review: Alliance’s successful season
Alliance News
April-June 2014

After a turbulent few years which saw Alliance offices and elected representatives attacked, many predicted the Local Government and European elections would signal the end of Alliance — they were wrong. Instead the party held its ground, securing its dominance in Belfast City Council and making several key gains in new areas. Here we take a look at the Alliance Party’s successful election season.

Antrim and Newtownabbey

  • John Blair
  • Billy Webb
  • Neil Kelly
  • Tom Campbell

Causeway Coast & Glens

  • Barney Fitzpatrick

Mid & East Antrim

  • Robert Logan
  • Gerardine Mulvenna
  • Jon Paul Sinclair

Newry, Mourne & Down

  • Patrick Brown
  • Patrick Clarke

North Down & Ards

  • Stuart Anderson
  • Kellie Armstrong
  • Deborah Girvan
  • Alan McDowell
  • Andrew Muir
  • Gavin Walker
  • Scott Wilson

Belfast City Council

  • David Armitage
  • Paula Bradshaw
  • Carole Howard
  • Mervyn Jones
  • Michael Long
  • Nuala McAllister
  • Emmet McDonough-Brown
  • Laura McNamee

Lisburn & Castlereagh

  • Owen Gawith
  • Amanda Grehan
  • Vasundhara Kamble
  • Stephen Martin
  • Aaron McIntyre
  • Tim Morrow
  • Geraldine Rice


Obituary: Mary Bruce
Alliance News
April-June 2014

Members of South Down Alliance Association were greatly saddened by the death of their oldest member, Mary Bruce, at the age of 103. Mary was a founder member of the Alliance Party and did not retire from active participation on the South Down Alliance Committee, which she hosted in Newcastle, until her 102nd year.

Mary was a most remarkable person with many interests, including travel to most parts of the world. She will be missed by all who knew her.

Relatives of Mary were very pleased at the presence of David Ford at her funeral in Castlewellan.

Alliance News
April-June 2014

As the election dust settles and meetings of the new eleven “Super Councils” get underway, the future face of local government in Northern Ireland is beginning to take shape.

The reduction of 26 Councils to eleven sees a smaller number of elected representatives set to take on greater responsibility — signalling major change for how Northern Ireland is governed at a local level.

But for Alliance these elections were about much more. Following a turbulent few years as tribal politics erupted over flags, parades and the past — on-one could predict how these events would influence voters at the ballot box.

And while the analysis will continue for some time, one thing is clear — the Alliance Party is far from finished, as many had previously predicted.

Alliance had high hopes for this election. Having had to stand by and watch our offices and elected representatives attacked for taking a decision in Belfast City Hall that showed true leadership for everyone — we believed the core Alliance message would resonate with voters. And it did.

In Europe the party secured its best ever result with an unprecedented number of people getting behind Anna Lo’s bid to become an MEP dedicated to progressing Northern Ireland’s interests in Europe.

At Council level we secured 32 seats and in many places were on course for more. For the first time in years Alliance has a seat in Northern Belfast and now holds two seats in the new Newry, Mourne and Down Council. In Belfast the party is a major player, as the third largest party and again holding the balance of power. These are important strengths.

But despite all the success there were inevitably some loses and it is sad to lose 13 sitting Councillors. Along with those choosing not to stand for re-election, we are grateful for their years of service and pay tribute to the hard work and dedicated they have undertaken for everyone in Northern Ireland.

Despite the radical change in governing at local level, the overall political landscape remains unchanged. As we head towards another potentially contentious parades season, there are still no firm solution on the table to deal with flags, parades and the past. The latest round of proposed party leaders’ talks has failed to get past the planning stage.

Yet in an Executive where the majority of progress has stalled, Alliance Ministers are continuing to make progress and are working towards major reform in both the Justice and Employment and Learning Departments.

We are one year into a three-year election cycle and quickly moving towards Westminster election in May 2015. While Unionists are pre-occupied battling among themselves to decide who will take on Naomi Long in East Belfast, we must continue on encouraging even more people to step forward and support Alliance. Our message is clear — only Alliance can deliver the shared future everyone in Northern Ireland deserves.