Looking good in Northern Ireland

The counting in the Northern Ireland local elections was finally concluded late last night. And the good news is that, matching Lib Dem successes in England, the Alliance Party increased their seats by 21, far more than any other party.

Alliance is our sister party in Northern Ireland. There is a small Lib Dem branch there as well, but they didn’t put up any candidates, and Lib Dem members are allowed to have dual membership.

Councillors are elected through Single Transferable Vote every four years, and there are five major parties, plus a handful of smaller ones.  As a result no council has a party with an overall majority.

Alliance increased its share of seats on the following councils:

  • Antrim and Newtownabbey
  • Ards and North Down
  • Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon
  • Belfast City
  • Causeway Coast and Glens
  • Derry City and Strabane
  • Fermanagh and Omagh
  • Lisburn and Castlereagh City
  • Mid and East Antrim

That is, in fact, every single council apart from Mid Ulster (where Alliance have no councillors) and Newry City, Mourne & Down (where Alliance held on to two existing seats).

Congratulations to the Alliance campaign teams across Northern Ireland!




* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames where she is still very active with the local party.

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  • bernard Aris 5th May '19 - 4:44pm

    Is my analysis right that both the DUP and Sin Fein, who put on such pained faces when told where to go by the priest at the recent funeral of a brave reporter, now have to contend with a strengthened Alliance presence in their constituencies , putting even more pressure on them to stop their point-scoring squabble which has paralysed local goveernment and has run down the quality of both life and governance in Northern Ireland?

    Anyway, Dutch congratulations for the Alliance Party, the common sense and common purpose party of a UK province which has so much to lose by a hard brexit the DUP keeps insisting on.

  • Richard Underhill 5th May '19 - 6:20pm

    Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry credited “new voters” with an increase of 65% in councillors elected from 32 to 53. He was speaking to BBC’s Northern Ireland Sunday Politics programme.

  • Richard Underhill 5th May '19 - 6:45pm

    bernard Aris 5th May ’19 – 4:44pm
    Please spell party names correctly or an ugly joke would be spoiled.
    Sinn Fein (Ourselves Alone) are colloquially known as “The Sinners” (Pronounced ‘Shinners’
    “Alliance Party, the common sense” party represents a political strand which is regrettably not sufficiently widespread in Northern Ireland. They were previously described as the ‘non-sectarian’ party and have become the ‘anti-sectarian’ party.
    They are not unionist or nationalist. Their former leader John Alderdice became President of the Liberal International and held a congress in Belfast.
    Their current leader Naomi Long defeated the then DUP leader and became an MP at Westminster campaigning strongly against double-jobbing.

  • Steve Comer 5th May '19 - 9:34pm

    I must say I’m pleased that Alliance are now being described as an “anti-sectarian” party!

    The Good Friday Agreement is widely supported, and rightly so, but it does have a flaw in that it defines people by identity as ‘unionist’ or ‘nationalist’. It sounds like many of the ‘post cease fire’ generation who have now reached voting age are rejecting being defined in that way, Lyra McKee was one who rejected such institutional sectarianism.

  • Peter Martin 6th May '19 - 9:38am

    @ Steve Cromer,

    Good point about Unionist and Nationalist institutional sectarianism.

    It got me thinking that in the context of the EU there could be a similar, but curiously perverse, divide developing between the European Unionists (supported largely by Irish Nationalists) and UK Nationalists (supported largely by Ulster Unionists).

    The UK Nationalists/Ulster Unionists was the border to remain. Which is interpreted by the Irish Nationists/European Unionists to mean that the 6 northern counties are ruled by London. The Irish Nationalists/European Unionists want the border removed which is interpreted by UK Nationalists/Ulster Unionists to mean that all 32 Irish counties are ruled by Brussels.

    Confusing? Maybe but I think I’ve got it right! 😉

  • Richard Underhill 6th May '19 - 10:59am

    Steve Comer 5th May ’19 – 9:34pm Spot on.
    At one point the Alliance Party was being pressurised by political forces in Northern Ireland to identify as Unionist in order to provide votes for an undecided issue.
    A journalist on the Radio 4 Today Programme joined in this pressure.
    David Ford repeatedly refused. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Ford
    I recall Liberal Party leader David Steel bringing the Chairman of the BBC to speak at .a dinner at the National Liberal Club. He told us not to complain about not getting on the media “because David Steel is on all the time”, which David Steel acknowledged. From the audience I suggested the opposite. The BBC Chairman challenged me, saying “A democratic party?” I nodded.
    The Today Programme may have had a rocket from the Chairman, because the next morning David Ford was on the programme for several minutes. At the time he was General Secretary of Alliance. Next time I was in Northern Ireland I mentioned these events to Alliance leader John Alderdice.
    When Paddy Ashdown was Liberal Democrat leader he became Lib Dem spokesman
    for Northern Ireland, after David Alton. John Alderdice became a Lib Dem life peer. Although Alliance already had a peer he was hereditary and Lords reform was imminent. More recently John Alderdice became our Northern Ireland spokesman under a different Lib Dem leader.
    He recently wrote a report which is discussed elsewhere on Lib Dem Voice.

  • Paul Barker 6th May '19 - 12:27pm

    The thing that strikes me is that “Unionists” only took two fifths of the Vote while Non-Sectarian Parties plus Independents took a quarter. Perhaps Northern Irelands Sectarian divide is starting to break down ?

  • Richard Underhill 6th May '19 - 5:42pm

    John Jeremy Durham Ashdown (known as Paddy) was born in India before independence.
    In Northern Ireland he said he was asked whether he was a Catholic? or a Protestant?
    He replied that he was a Buddhist.
    So was he a Catholic Buddhist?
    Or a Protestant Buddhist?

  • Denis Loretto 6th May '19 - 6:18pm

    I was one of the 16 people who founded the Alliance Party in 1970. I am now a Lib Dem activist in Southwark. I am surprised at the comment in this thread that the party has moved from being non-sectarian to being anti-sectarian. It was always anti-sectarian as its main founding principle states –

    “Our primary objective is to heal the bitter divisions in our community by ensuring – (a) Equality of citizenship and of human dignity
    (b) The rooting out of discrimination and injustice
    (c) The elimination of prejudice by a just and liberal appreciation of the beliefs and fears of different members of the community
    (d) Equality of social, economic and educational opportunities
    (e) Highest standards of democracy at both parliamentary and local government level (f) Complete and effective participation in our political, governmental and public life at all levels by people drawn from both sides of our present religious divide.”

    Here you have the main thrust of the Good Friday Agreement 28 years before it was enacted. While that agreement was a great step forward there is much still to be done and every member of the party is still fighting for its principles as the older ones have done now for nearly 50 years – through bitter conflict and uncertain peace.

    You can imagine how delighted I am at the current success – to my mind the greatest step forward the Alliance Party has ever made. The Euro election with Naomi Long as candidate will be very interesting.

  • Peter Hirst 7th May '19 - 3:59pm

    I’ve never understood why The Alliance does not merge with the Lib Dems; there must be good internal reasons and I won’t pretend to understand irish politics. However Northern Ireland is an integral part of the UK and I am sure can teach us much, not least how to operate a decent voting system.

  • Richard Underhill 7th May '19 - 5:43pm

    Denis Loretto 6th May ’19 – 6:18pm
    “The Euro election with Naomi Long as candidate will be very interesting.”
    Yes, a three member constituency electing by STV. Are there likely to be candidates from the DUP, UUP, TUV etc?
    You said that Alliance “was always anti-sectarian as its main founding principle states”
    I stand corrected. I had said that Alliance were previously described as the ‘non-sectarian’ party. Sorry. This was about perceptions.
    It was good to see you at the Richmond bye-election. Pity about the result in 2017.

  • Nonconformistradical 7th May '19 - 8:47pm

    “a three member constituency electing by STV. Are there likely to be candidates from the DUP, UUP, TUV etc?”

    Northern Ireland candidates list at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-politics-48081449

  • Richard Underhill 7th May '19 - 9:24pm

    Nonconformistradical Thank you.
    Nine parties and two independents.
    We usually say that for the voters STV is as simple as 1, 2, 3 ..etcetera.
    Depending on the turnout of voters this could be a long count.

  • Richard Underhill 7th May '19 - 11:58pm

    Maybe the former Liberal News or the Liberal Democrat News had an exclusive
    but try to imagine three party leaders walking down the street together,
    in Northern Ireland, during the troubles.
    David Steel, Liberal
    John Alderdice, Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
    Desmond O’Malley, Progressive Democrats, An Páirtí Daonlathach
    Perhaps one of the tv companies has some moving pictures.

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