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Alliance's David Ford to step down from Stormont after 20 years

Former Alliance Party leader David Ford has announced he is stepping down as an MLA.

Mr Ford, who is 67-years-old, took up his role at Stormont on July 1 1998, representing South Antrim.

He was the first Northern Irish politician to take up the role as justice minister in 2010 for nearly 40 years.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Ford said: "I think given now I'm a couple of years past the retirement age, it's the right time to leave to get someone else established while the assembly is not functioning normally so they can be ready to go when the assembly is restored."

Mr Ford will officially step down on July 1, 20 years to the day since he became an MLA.

David Ford with with Alliance leader Naomi Long

In 2015 he came under pressure to resign as justice minister after a scathing report found Maghaberry Prison in County Antrim was the most dangerous prison in the United Kingdom.

He said: "Prisons hit the headlines most but there was a lot of other work being done - running prisons is never easy.

"I believe our prisons are in a much better place than they were, when I've been back in all three prisons in the last few months I see very constructive work being done led by local teams who grew and developed during my time in office and I'm quite proud of that."

Mr Ford said he was leaving the Alliance Party "in good hands" with the current leadership team of Naomi Long and Stephen Farry.

David Ford with his wife Anne relaxing at the Antrim Show

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MLA wish Mr Ford well following the announcement.

The Foyle MLA said: “Politics here is no easy business, and we have to pay tribute to those who have served their constituents during good and bad times.

“Mr Ford has dedicated his political career to better the life of his constituents as an MLA for South Antrim, his own party during his years as Alliance Party leader, and his determination to better our justice system through his time holding the Departmental portfolio.

“The SDLP wish Mr Ford the best in his retirement and extends a hand of gratitude for his willingness to work with us over the years."

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