Confident David Ford targets second ministerial post in Executive
Just two or three extra Assembly seats could gain Alliance a second ministry in the Stormont Executive, the party has predicted.
And a confident leader David Ford yesterday added: “I am not sure we are not going to do even better than that.”
Having secured the party’s first elected MP — deputy leader Naomi Long, who beat Peter Robinson in East Belfast — and after a successful performance as Justice Minister by Mr Ford, Alliance believes it is on a roll.
It is running more candidates than ever before — in both the Assembly and local council polls — and in every constituency.
But Mr Ford insisted: “This is not complacency. There is a real opportunity for us. And we are making change the central theme of our campaign.”
The party is targeting additional seats in East Belfast, North Down and Upper Bann. While Mr Ford was appointed to the justice post by majorities of both unionists and nationalists, Alliance would come down the pecking order for a second portfolio.
The party has indicated it would be interested in health, and yester
day specifically mentioned education, but Mr Ford said an Alliance minister would “make a difference” in any department.
At an event to launch his candidates in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall, Mr Ford also took a sideswipe at the DUP.
While its leader Peter Robinson had moved his party into the unionist mainstream, he said he found it “difficult to put the words ‘liberal’ and ‘DUP’ in the same sentence”.
He added: “I am not sure when Peter Robinson talks about a shared future he means what I mean. He is trying to project a more moderate image of his party but that does not equate to liberal politics.”
If Alliance was to gain a second Executive place, it could come at the expense of the UUP, who presently have health and employment and learning ministries.
Mr Ford said it was the next phase of Alliance’s campaign for change, which he said it has been building “for decades”.
Mr Ford argued change in recent years has been in areas in which Alliance has taken the lead — a political settlement based on the fundamentals of the principle of consent and power-sharing; increasing acceptance that integrated, shared education is the best model and a local police service underpinned by the support of our entire community.
Ms Long opened the event by saying the party went ahead with its campaign launch despite the murder of Constable Ronan Kerr because it felt it was important to demonstrate “there is an alternative” leading to “a better future”.