Alliance seeks to make gains west of the Bann

Hopes are high for Alliance that the party can make gains in areas outside its traditional Belfast support base in the forthcoming local government elections, its leader has said.

Friday, 1st March 2019, 12:00 pm
Stephen Donnelly
Stephen Donnelly

The party currently has representation in seven of the Province’s 11 constituencies, but it has struggled to make in-roads west of the Bann.

Naomi Long says she plans to change that, and pointed to some areas where the party could potentially see some success at election time in May.

But she acknowledges it will not happen overnight.

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“These things take time,” she told the News Letter.

“I don’t expect we are going to see a massive spring of people being elected all over Northern Ireland suddenly in this election. But what we do have, which is the first step towards that, is local candidates, not people who have been parachuted in or who don’t have a grounding in that constituency.

“People who live and work in that constituency and who are stepping up and saying they want to represent the party.”

While she was wary of highlighting any particular candidates who could secure seats for the party, the East Belfast MLA felt Stephen Donnelly is in with “a good chance” of taking a seat in Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.

She added: “That would be important as that is a seat we used to hold, but unfortunately we lost. Stephen is a young guy who is really committed to the community there and has worked really hard in recent years. He has a real opportunity to see the rewards of that.

“But there are other places where we are seeing that same dynamic. For example, if you look to Derry and Strabane District Council, in the last election we ran quite a small number of candidates in that area.

“This time we expect to be running in every single DEA in that council with people who live and work in those areas, and I think that is really crucial in terms of building the party’s credibility.”