Belfast Telegraph

Alliance eyes up new areas for council election bid

By Suzanne Breen

Alliance leader Naomi Long says her party is aiming to smash the "10% electoral barrier" in the 2019 council elections and to win seats in areas where it currently has no councillors.

Speaking at her party's autumn conference in Londonderry on Saturday, Mrs Long said Alliance was focused on significantly increasing its support. The party took 7% of the vote in the 2014 council elections and has struggled to build support west of the Bann.

The Alliance leader said: "That can change. We have an opportunity in this impasse to demonstrate that we are a credible alternative to binary politics; that we offer solutions not recriminations; and that we deliver for people on the ground when their faith in politicians is at a low ebb.

"How great it would be if the next time we hold our autumn conference in Derry we were welcomed to the city by a local councillor … or maybe two. Why not in Omagh, too. Or Armagh? Or Enniskillen, Ballymena, Newry or Cookstown?"

Mrs Long said Alliance MLAs shared the public's "frustration and anger" at the current stalemate at Stormont, which prevented them from doing the job they were elected to do.

They wanted to "deliver the changes in policy and priorities which are necessary to modernise our public services and meet the needs of our people" but were "locked out of the job through no fault of our own". Mrs Long said the deadline for a deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein had passed at Halloween "with more of a whimper than a bang".

She added: "It is that steady parade of missed deadlines, each slipping by, seemingly consequence-free for the parties involved, which I believe is truly damaging to public confidence and to the political process.

"It seems that in this Northern Ireland Last Chance Saloon, the barman never calls time."

A budget for Northern Ireland from Westminster didn't solve the problem, she insisted.

Mrs Long also called on Secretary of State James Brokenshire to reconsider Alliance's proposals for an independent mediator to breathe new life into the talks.

Belfast Telegraph

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