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Naomi Long: We should celebrate difference and make it a strength, rather than let it divide us

By Naomi Long

Published 27/10/2016

Alliance Party's outgoing leader David Ford sits alongside deputy leader Naomi Long who is set to be elected as the new leader of the party at a special meeting of the party council in the Park Avenue Hotel, Belfast.
Alliance Party's outgoing leader David Ford sits alongside deputy leader Naomi Long who is set to be elected as the new leader of the party at a special meeting of the party council in the Park Avenue Hotel, Belfast.
Alliance Party's deputy leader Naomi Long is elected new leader of the party at a special meeting of the party council in the Park Avenue Hotel, Belfast. PA
Alliance Party's deputy leader Naomi Long and outgoing leader David Ford (right), Long is set to be elected as the new leader of the party at a special meeting of the party council in the Park Avenue Hotel, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 26, 2016. See PA story ULSTER Alliance. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Alliance Party's outgoing leader David Ford at a special meeting of the party council in the Park Avenue Hotel, Belfast, where deputy leader Naomi Long is set to be announced as the new party leader. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 26, 2016. See PA story ULSTER Alliance. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Alliance Party's outgoing leader David Ford with deputy leader Naomi Long who is set to be elected as the new leader of the party at a special meeting of the party council in the Park Avenue Hotel, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 26, 2016. See PA story ULSTER Alliance. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Alliance Party's deputy leader Naomi Long who is set to be elected as the new leader of the party at a special meeting of the party council in the Park Avenue Hotel, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 26, 2016. See PA story ULSTER Alliance. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Alliance Party's outgoing leader David Ford sits alongside deputy leader Naomi Long who is set to be elected as the new leader of the party at a special meeting of the party council in the Park Avenue Hotel, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 26, 2016. See PA story ULSTER Alliance. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
New Alliance Party leader Naomi Long

Becoming Alliance leader is a huge honour, a role that is daunting and exciting in equal measure.

I am taking over a party in good health and in good spirits. A party ready to grasp the opportunities which lie ahead for all in our society. A party poised to lead the renewal needed across Northern Ireland.

As leader, I will be building on the work of my predecessors, particularly David Ford.

He deserves the highest praise, not only for what he has done for Alliance and Northern Ireland over the past 15 years, but also for the way he has done it - always with good grace and real dedication.

In following them, there remains an important job to do, offering people a clear and ambitious alternative vision for the future.

A society in which rights are respected and each person is valued. Helping create a united community which is progressive, liberal, fair and open.

Only a party which is itself progressive, liberal, fair and open can truly deliver that.

Alliance is that party.

The party has a diverse and vibrant membership, cutting across all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientations, faiths and abilities.

But what brings us together - what unites us and makes us strong - are our shared beliefs and common values. A collective notion our society can thrive because of our differences, not in spite of them.

I want to reach out to those people and areas who might not be seen as traditionally Alliance, and appeal to them. To those who might not have voted Alliance before or haven't done for some time. To those living in communities where paramilitaries still exert control. To people for whom the terms nationalism and unionism remind them of another generation's politics rather than their own.

To people who are interested in politics but fed up with what so often passes for it at Stormont. To people who look in despair at the isolationism gripping international and national politics, and want to be a voice for openness and inclusion.

To people who share our values and vision.

I want to hear their voices and work to build a liberal and progressive future. A future in which people can be confident, unlike with other parties, that if they vote Alliance, they get Alliance.

In our increasingly diverse society, we can let difference divide us or we can celebrate it and make it our strength.

I want you to help us do the latter.

Belfast Telegraph

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