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Alliance Party pledges NI 'reform'

The Alliance Party will not go to Westminster with a gun or a begging bowl, its only outgoing MP has claimed.

Naomi Long said if the cross-community party was successful in next month's General Election, it would take real "plans" for reform in Northern Ireland.

She said: "We are not going to Westminster to hold a gun to people's heads and threaten chaos if we don't get our way.

"Neither are we going to Westminster with a begging bowl constantly asking for more.

"We are going to Westminster with plans for reform to change Northern Ireland."

Ms Long was speaking at the party's manifesto launch in The Metropolitan Arts Centre (Mac) in Belfast city centre.

The Alliance Party deputy leader is facing one of the toughest electoral battles against the agreed unionist candidate, Gavin Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) for East Belfast.

In 2010, she produced one the biggest shocks of the campaign, ousting long-standing DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson.

The Alliance manifesto includes a pledge to reduce or abolish air passenger duty to improve air connectivity between Northern Ireland, the UK and the rest of Europe.

It also promises to improve the rights of the LGBT community and aims to bring the region into line with the rest of the UK by lifting the ban on gay and unmarried couples adopting and the ban on gay men donating blood.

There is further support for a "mansion tax" provided a mechanism is developed which would allow the asset- rich but cash-poor to defer payment.

Ms Long said the 32-page document would not be allowed to gather dust or be discarded in a recycling bin but would be used to guide politicians for crucial votes.

"It will be, as our last one was, a living, breathing, working document that will guide how we deliver on that vision of the way forward," she added.

In the event of a hung parliament, the Alliance Party would be guided by policy and values, Ms Long said.

The Alliance Party is fielding 18 candidates.

Leader David Ford said he did not expect success in all constituencies but said the party was compelled to offer voters a choice.

"Of course it is the case that we are not expecting to win in a number of those constituencies," he said.

"We are merely putting our view forward."

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