Ford predicts council gains for Alliance

The Alliance Party candidate launch
The Alliance Party candidate launch

More Alliance councillors will be elected next month than in the last council election in 2011, Alliance leader David Ford has predicted.

Mr Ford made the confident statement of the party’s expectations, despite the fact that there are 120 fewer positions available after the number of councils falls from 26 to 11.

Speaking in central Belfast at the launch of his party’s campaign, the Justice Minister said that he is “quite confident “that we will exceed the 43 councillors we currently have, because I believe that what we’re seeing on the streets is a significant increase in our vote”.

Despite the fallout from the Union Flag protests, which in some instances saw the party’s offices attacked and representatives threatened, he said that some DUP voters – as well as some from Sinn Fein – had told Alliance canvassers that they would be voting for the party.

“I think we’re in for a good election,” he predicted.

One of the party’s candidate’s, Nico Fell, who is standing in Bangor, said that he “joined the party in response to the flag protests”.

European candidate Anna Lo – who took questions but was unavailable for interview – said she had been “flabbergasted” at the reaction to her comment that she thought a united Ireland would make sense.

She claimed that the issue was not being raised much by voters.

Meanwhile, Mr Ford expressed concerns about the potential for difficulties in the planning system, which will transfer to councils from next year.

He said: “We’ve had real dangers at times that local councillors from some parties have been more swayed by who the applicant is than by the quality of applications...I think there will be a real need to ensure that there are councillors elected who will [act] in an open and fair way.”