For those who unaware, The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland was founded at a house in Bangor forty years ago in 1970.
I attended the event as Chairperson of the Alliance Party in North Down and delivered most of words contained in the following speech, after thanking all those who organised such a great event;
Since the Party was founded in 1970 Northern Ireland has changed a lot but the Party’s founding principals still remain relevant.
When Alliance was established it was stated “The objectives of the party shall be to heal the bitter divisions in our community and to promote the policies of the party as determined by the Council”
Society is still divided. Sectarianism and intolerance still prevails. As we saw earlier this week, some people still haven’t abandoned using bombs and bullets to achieve their aims.
Forty years later Alliance still has a crucial role to play in building a new Northern Ireland where democracy, dialogue and respect for difference prevails over division, intolerance and violence. Our founding principles have endured over the years and still remain relevant today.
When the Party was founded guidance was issued to let the media know a bit more about Alliance.
The guidance commenced “The Alliance Party, as it’s name applies, is an alliance of Catholics and Protestants throughout Northern Ireland. Its membership is comprised of people from all income groups and all walks of life”.
This also remains relevant today and, as a sign of our success, the Alliance is now even wider embracing not only Catholics and Protestants but many more people including people such as Anna Lo, Alliance MLA for South Belfast. A Taoist and the first ethnic Chinese born person to be elected to a legislative parliament in Europe.
Whilst Northern Ireland society has become more diverse, DUP are in government along with Sinn Fein and Martin Maginess is now attending the Conservative Party conference as welcome guest some things don’t change.
In the guidance document issued to the media it stated “Our attitude to the Unionist Party can be summed up as follows:- It is no longer a credible political force. It is hopelessly split at least three ways”. Some things never change.
Whilst others remain stuck in the past Alliance looks to the future.
Alliance has a strong and proud track record, fighting the battle against sectarianism whilst also making the case for a Shared Society.
During the dark days of the Troubles many people joined Alliance, many also campaigned for Alliance, some sought and were elected as Alliance candidates, some even led Alliance. I feel very proud to stand here today amongst many of those people. To you all, I have just two simple words, Thank you.