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Alliance Party activists remain resolute on designated days flag policy

By Liam Clarke

Alliance Party activists are overwhelmingly united in support of its policy on designated flying days for the Union flag in Belfast, a poll has found.

They remain resolute in the face of months of loyalist protests and attacks on the party's offices over the controversial issue.

On December 3 last year, Alliance councillors in Belfast succeeded in amending a nationalist motion to stop flying the Union flag on City Hall so that it would instead fly 17 days a year.

The issue was among the questions put to delegates at the party's weekend conference as part of a Belfast Telegraph poll. Every member questioned believed this has been the right thing to do.

Another moment of unanimity came when we asked if David Ford, the party leader, should remain in post until the next Assembly election, which will probably be held in 2015 or 2016.

Theresa Villiers fared worse. Only 14% of her audience thought she had done a good job as Secretary of State.

There was speculation that Basil McCrea, who recently resigned from the UUP and now intends forming a new party, might join Alliance. Our polling showed that the high profile MLA joining Alliance ranks could have proved divisive. Just over a third (38%) would have welcomed him. Interestingly a few of the 24% who were undecided said they preferred John McCallister, an MLA who also quit the party.

Overall, 12% of delegates said that, in an open field, they would give their second preference vote to Mr McCrea's party and only 2% would back the UUP.

None would transfer to the DUP, Sinn Fein, the TUV or Ukip and only 20 to the SDLP. This shows the preference but in an actual election things might go differently because most delegates said they would ideally like to transfer to the Greens (52%), who don't stand in most areas.

Some 70% of delegates back the Lib Dems, despite Alliance's severing of links after it entered coalition with the Tories. A fifth (20%) favoured Labour and 8% Tories.

Asked about the performance of John Larkin as Attorney General opinion was mixed. Some 30% said he performed well, 26% disagreed and close to half were (44%) undecided.

There was overwhelming support (94%) for the proposition that the Executive should offer incentives for Catholic and Protestant schools to amalgamate.

Most delegates (54%) wanted Northern Ireland to remain in the UK with only 4% preferring an all Ireland State and the rest undecided.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph