Alliance 'set for election gains'
The Alliance Party believes it is on the verge of Assembly election gains that could put it in contention for a further seat at the Executive table.
Its leader David Ford holds the Justice Minister's post under the temporary selection arrangements established under the devolution of policing and justice powers.
But at the launch of the Alliance candidates for the assembly and local government elections, he said the party was on the verge of making enough gains to entitle it to a ministry under Stormont's power-sharing rules.
He took a side-swipe at DUP leader Peter Robinson and questioned what observers have said is his more moderate stance on subjects, including integrated education.
Mr Ford predicted his party could make gains of three or more seats on its current tally of seven, as Alliance attempts to capitalise on deputy leader Naomi Long's success in seizing Mr Robinson's East Belfast Westminster seat. The Alliance leader went on to declare that further change was possible.
"Change is not a word that many people associate with elections in Northern Ireland," he said at the launch in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.
"The parties of unionism and nationalism, representing the politics of another time, don't want it. Journalists and commentators don't expect it.
"And however much voters would like to see it, many people don't believe it is possible.
"But we believe change is possible. That's why we're making change the central theme of the Alliance campaign for the elections."
He said he would not "put a ceiling" on the party's potential for growth, and added: "We will set out a vision of a society where everyone can live, work and socialise together in safety, a better place to live - better meaning more peaceful, prosperous, open, welcoming and vibrant."