Sunday 18 August 2019

Alliance: Public has indicated a desire for change

Elections: Alliance leader Nicola Long said the results were hugely important. Picture: PA
Elections: Alliance leader Nicola Long said the results were hugely important. Picture: PA

David Young

Voters in the North have signalled their desire for alternatives to traditional Orange and Green politics, the leader of the Alliance Party has said.

Naomi Long hailed what she described as the expansion of the centre ground after her party, the Greens and People Before Profit all enjoyed success at the local council elections.

The surge in support for parties not aligned as unionist or nationalist came ahead of a new talks process to restore the power-sharing institutions at Stormont.

Negotiations convened by the Irish and UK Governments will resume in Belfast today - more than two years since the executive collapsed.

Efforts to restore Stormont have been injected with fresh urgency following the dissident republican murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry last month.

Ms Long said the election result was "hugely important" for the region's political landscape.

"Because, after what could have been an incredibly divisive campaign, what we actually saw was people coming out and saying they want something different, they want politics that is about solving problems, they want politics that is about co-operation, and they, more than anything else, want politics that is progressive," she told BBC Radio Ulster.

Alliance saw its number of councillors soar by 65pc - from 32 to 53. However, it remains the fifth-largest party in the North.

While the DUP and Sinn Féin failed to make the gains many had predicted, they remain the two largest parties - underlining the reality that the fate of the Stormont talks is still very much in their hands.

The DUP's vote rose by 1pc, although it ended up losing eight of its 130 council seats. Sinn Féin remained unchanged with 105 seats.

While the election was ostensibly about who sits on local councils, it appears many voters used it to express dissatisfaction at the ongoing lack of proper representation at Stormont.

Irish Independent

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