Alliance leader talks of change
The Alliance Party leader has called on the electorate of Northern Ireland who want a real shared future to start backing change.
David Ford said voters who want to transform society and build a united community should move on from their political allegiance and play a role in making it happen.
Addressing delegates at his party`s conference in Belfast, he said the party had ambitious targets for the coming years to have more councillors and Assembly members who will deliver change.
"So I appeal to people who vote for, who are members of and even those who are elected as representatives of these other parties: do you want to go on forever, locked into the same old politics?" Mr Ford said. "Or do you want to see a step change, a radical shift in the politics of this place?
"To those in the UUP and SDLP: are these parties really going to recover? Are they really going to deliver the kind of future that our community needs? If you think they are, carry on. But if your ambition is change, if you want to see a genuinely shared future, will you ever be able to achieve it in those parties?
"Do you want your politics to be defined by a never-ending battle for unionist votes or nationalist votes? Or do you want your politics to be defined by the kind of society that we need to build?"
Mr Ford claimed the UUP and SDLP were mirror images of each other, casting about for relevance as their support drains away, no longer able to convey a sense of purpose to the electorate because they cannot agree on what that purpose is.
He added: "But if the SDLP and UUP are to be pitied, the DUP and Sinn Fein are to be feared. There is plenty of fine rhetoric but behind the rhetoric they have settled into a cosy carve-up. Look at their record."
The Alliance Party was celebrating its success in last year's elections, with a 50% increase in its number of councillors and seven MLAs elected.