Alliance ruling body backs Ford to turn down Justice post

Alliance leader David Ford and Naomi Long pictured leaving talks at Stormont Castle.   Picture: Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Alliance leader David Ford and Naomi Long pictured leaving talks at Stormont Castle. Picture: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The Alliance party’s ruling council has voted overwhelmingly not to nominate an MLA to become Justice Minister at Stormont.

Ahead of last night’s meeting at the Park Avenue Hotel in east Belfast, the party’s leader David Ford said there had been a “negative DUP and Sinn Fein response” to five Alliance proposals on issues such as education and the Troubles legacy.

The negativity had given the party leadership no choice but to recommend turning down the position, Mr Ford said.

Following the meeting of the Alliance Party Council, the party’s deputy leader Naomi Long said: “I can say with absolute certainty that the one thing that won’t change between now and next Wednesday (the deadline for forming a new Executive) is the position of the Alliance party, with respect to what would be required as the minimum for us to be willing to take the Justice ministry.

“We are very clear, and it was overwhelming endorsed this evening by our ruling council, that nothing short of the five points which we put to the DUP and Sinn Fein would be acceptable,” she told the BBC’s The View programme on Thursday night.

In a statement released shortly after the programme, Mrs Long said: “Tonight’s meeting was not only well attended but there was a passionate commitment from members that the party had a primary duty to do what is in the best interests of all of Northern Ireland.

“Members endorsed the proposals which we submitted to DUP and Sinn Fein which they recognised would have radically changed Northern Ireland in terms of governance, building an integrated society, strengthening our economy, dealing with the costs of division and crucially addressing legacy issues and paramilitarism to allow our community to move forward.”

She added: “Given the DUP and Sinn Fein response to those proposals, the view of leadership was that we could not recommend an Alliance MLA to take the Justice Minister role, and that view was endorsed this evening.

“Whether in government or in opposition, we will not be deflected from delivering ambitious change for our community and it is clear that Alliance is energised about progressing that agenda.”