25/03/2017 Alliance Party Conference

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Live coverage of the Alliance Party's annual conference, including keynote speech by party leader Naomi Long.

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Hello and welcome to the conference. Alliance Party members are gathered


in an East Belfast hotel this lunch time, buoyed after a good result in


the recent snap Assembly election. This year, they have a new leader in


Naomi Long. She will give her speech shortly where viewers can enjoy it


here in full along with viewers across the UK on the Parliament


channel. Now the former executive minister Stephen Farry is addressing


delegates. In the last conference a year ago, members were preparing for


a scheduled Assembly election. Since then, there have been two with the


possibility of a third now looming. Shortly, we'll have a word with our


political editor at the conference. Let's hear from Professor Rick


Wilford in the studio. Welcome to you. A big day for Naomi Long. It


is, first conference speech as party leader. She's coming out in a


difficult context given the state of the talks and the continuing anxiety


about whether or not there'll be an agreement come Monday lunch time,


more or less. But she's coming out of an election where the Alliance


Party fared rather well. First preference vote went up 50%. Vote


share slightly over 2%. They retained each of their seats. For


her, she's coming at this conference with some real confidence and with


some buoyancy I think in her attitude and her views. She's going


to have to grapple with what's going on at Stormont House at the moment


in relation to the talks. I don't expect her to be indiscreet at all,


no doubt she will emphasise the scale of the task which confronts


all the parties. Do you think the death of Sinn Fein's Martin


McGuinness will cast any kind of shadow over proceedings at all? I


think politicians increasingly are going to feel the loss of Martin


McGuinness. Whatever else he was, he was in relation to politics here


something of a pragmatist. The lack of that pragmatism on the part of


Sinn Fein may be absent from these talks and when Gerry Adams said a


day or so ago that the deadline was Monday, there would be no extension,


I'm not sure whether that would have been the case if Martin McGuinness


had been still with us. Is it a shadow? Well, it makes things


difficult, but nevertheless, the tonal mood seemed to have lifted as


a consequence of Arlene Foster and Simon Hamilton's attendance at


McGuinness' funeral on Thursday. Whether that will have an effect on


the outcomes of the talks, I think is very doubtful. That was a mood


and political moods pass rather quickly. The one advantage that,


it's difficult to talk about it in those terms, that McGuinness'


passing has had, is that we know he was raterly committed to making


devolution work and making the peace process as safe as he possibly


could. In that sense his legacy, though he was responsible for


bringing the Assembly down by resigning as Deputy First Minister,


perhaps his enduring legacy is one that actually helps maybe to put the


House back together again. Just a brief question before we hear from


Mark Devonport. The party could have a big decision to take if the


devolution project gets up and running again, whether or not to


take the Justice Ministerery, if it's offered. They don't need to -


well, if it's offered yes. They're eligible both for the executive on


the strength of their seats for the last pick. They get the last pick.


They're eligible for a rolling official opposition. They have a


strategic decision to make. They have their own red lines, the


Alliance Party, whether they can be met amongst the other red lines


which are cluttering the pages of the negotiations, we'll have to wait


and see. It is a big choice. My suspicious would be alliance like


the Ulster Unionists and SDLP, if devolution is up and running,


they'll take their seats. Naomi long is in the conference hall, waiting


to be introduced by her party colleague, Stephen Farry, who served


in the executive. We're waiting for her to be introduced. While we wait


for that to happen, I suppose, interesting to think about the


prospect for Stephen Farry. He could be the nominee in the Alliance


Party. Naomi Long has made it clear she doesn't want a ministerial post.


Exactly. If we get an executive I think he's a shoe in as Justice


Minister. A lot of people would say that's fair enough because he was a


competent minister. He was. Not least because you taught him!


Absolutely, everything he knows! But David Ford is not going to come back


and take up the role. He's the only choice, Stephen Farry. Naomi by


training and occupation is an engineer. She's set her faith on


trying to develop the party and engineer its future in terms of


reaching out, particularly beyond its more comfortable base in the


east of the province. They did have some success in extending their


reach to the west at the recent elections. No, she's going to focus


on rat Issing and developing the party and its base and its


performance at the next scheduled elections, which are in 2019, the


local Government elections. We won't be having European elections that


year because we will be out of the European Union by then. She's not


going to take a back seat. She will be very prominent. She is their key


player, great speaker, great vocabulary and a colourful character


too, not least because of her hair, I suppose. She's going to focus on


developing and building the party. They've got a good spring board to


work from, given their performance just a few weeks ago. Right, I


gather that Stephen Farry is, we think, coming to the end of his


comments. He's been giving one of the key note speeches at the


conference this morning. We think he's practically at the end of that.


He will be introducing Stephen Farry. Because it is her first


conference speech as leader and because she is a very popular person


within the party, that she will get a very warm reception. Utterly. No


doubt she's going to pay considerable thanks to David Ford,


her predecessor, who was there for ten years, I think, more? No, ten


years as leader. I think there's going to be a lot of thanks for the


party work during the course of the campaign. That's where we begin. OK,


well there is Naomi Long, entering the hall proper now. Being embraced,


well half embraced there from her husband Michael Long, who is a


Belfast City counsellor. She's making her way to the platform.


She'll shake hands with Stephen Farry, the Deputy Leader. She's


getting her papers in order. Lots of photographs. I see Anna Lowe, the


president of the party, former South Belfast MLA applauding warmly.


Cameras clicking and whirring. She's just steeling herself to address the


conference. Let's hear what she has to say. This is live coverage of


Naomi Long's first speech to the Alliance Party conference.


Thank you conference. Madam president, distinguished guests,


fellow delegates, ladies and gentleman, friends, before I start


my formal speech, I would like to add my own personal condolences and


also my solidarity to the minute's silence which we held here this


morning at conference, for those affected by the tragic events in


London earlier this week. When I was an MP, I regularly entered


Parliament through Carriage Gates. I regularly spoke with the officers


there, who stood between us and where the thin blue line that


protected not just individuals but democracy from attack. I was hugely


endebted to them at times for their cooperation and assistance with my


own security. I want to send them in particular my thoughts and prayers


on the loss of their colleagues. As always, conference, it is an honour


and privilege to stand before you today and address conference. It's a


particular privilege, I have to say, and a pleasure to do it in East


Belfast. It also feels a little strange after ten years of doing so


to introduce the party leader to now be standing here as the party


leader. After almost six months in post, I'm finally adjusting to my


new role and new title, though it did take a while. In the early weeks


of leadership I prerecorded an interview and then promptly forgot


about it. When I put the radio on the following morning, they said,


we're going to be speaking to the Alliance Party leader and for a


second, I wonder what David was at this time.


LAUGHTER Whilst we have had other


opportunities to say thank you as a party to David, I do want to take


this opportunity to reiterate my thanks here at conference. Not only,


David, for what you've done for the Alliance Party and Northern Ireland


as a whole during that time, but also for the way that you've done


it. Often at great personal cost but always with grace and dedication.


When I spoke of David's leadership at our dinner in November to mark


his time as party leader, I said leadership is not just a position


that you hold but an attitude that you have. And that has proven yet


again to be the case with David. Over the last number of months, I've


taken to calling jokily David our leader emeritus. Though I say that


in jest, I think it is a good title for to call him a former leader


would diminish the role that he serves within this party. I think it


speaks volumes of David's commitment to Alliance, that unlike many


politicians, when their time and leadership ends, he has neither


disappeared, nor become a critic nor a passenger but has continued to


play a valuable role as an mla and within the leadership team of


alliance and for that continued support and guidance I am hugely


grateful. APPLAUSE


Of course, behind every good man is a good woman. So I also want to


extend my thanks to Ann and to the family. We owe them a huge debt not


just for David's 15 years but for them continuing to put up with the


demands we make of his time now, when I think they were hoping they


would get him back for a while. When I took on the leadership, about five


months ago, I undertook a number of things, key amongst which for me was


to build the party and its membership outside our traditional


areas of strength. I did so with a view to the next elections, which I


rather optimistically thought would be local government 2019. As we all


now know that optimism was misplaced. However the strategy was


not. I have always believed that the vision which we have as a party for


an inclusive, open and fair society is one which is as relevant to


people on one end of the country to the other. And the response to our


membership drive confirms that is the case. That work of reaching out


beyond our traditional base, renewing and invigorating local


associations right across Northern Ireland was reflected in membership


growth in every constituency. One of the best jobs you get to do as


leader is to sign new leaders welcome letters and to see not just


the number of letters each day, but the geographic spread of those


addresses has been a real encouragement, as was meeting many


new members as they toured Stormont earlier this year. For those of you


who are with us at your first conference today as new members, you


are very welcome and we appreciate your support. That strategy was also


put to its first electoral test with the collapse of the Assembly in


January and the snap elections which it triggered. At a time when there


has been little good news for liberal politics, nationally or


internationally, and an election which was itself incredibly


polarised, we bucked the trend, polling our highest number of votes


since 1979 and our highest vote share since 1987. Over 70,000 people


voted Alliance across Northern Ireland, a 50% increase in our vote.


In many constituencies our vote doubled or trebled from the last


election only eight months before. Not only did we hold our eight seats


more securely, but we were runner up in both north Belfast and in south




I think that success was down to two main factors, the quality of our


campaign and the quality of the candidates. Thanks to recruitment


and growth in the party, we were able to field candidates in every


area, who were genuinely grounded in their constituency, capable not only


of representing Alliance to the people, but also of representing the


concerns of local people in our campaign. I want to thank each of


you who had the courage to step up and run as a candidate. Whilst many


of you did so knowing you were unlikely to win a seat this time,


you still worked your constituency and took the Alliance message into


neighbourhoods which had not been canvassed for a generation. Without


your efforts we couldn't have achieved the results we did. You


have recruited new voters and members and you are well placed for


potential gains in local council elections. My advice to you is


simple - work like you won and next time you will.


APPLAUSE The only other advice I have for you


is - keep your diaries free. As I did my tours of constituencies each


Saturday of the campaign, I was struck by two things. Firstly, the


enthusiasm and dedication of our volunteers, who regardless of


weather were determined to get the message out in every area. And


secondly, the welcome that message received as we chatted to people on


doorsteps and in town centres right across Northern Ireland. I want to


thank all of you who participated in the campaign and gave your time,


your talent and your money to make it a success. I was also struck by a


third thing. My dog, Daisy, is officially a celebrity now, thanks


to social media, television and newspapers. I have a sneaking


suspicion that some of the people who came to chat with us, were more


interested in getting selfies with Daisy, than they were in discussing


the finer detail of policy. And that was only the candidates.


LAUGHTER I want to say a very brief but


sincere thank you to our staff team, for any party to run two major


elections in eight months and to do so not just at short notice and to


tight deadlines, but to deliver the successful campaign and results


which they did, I think it's remarkable. What is more remarkable,


is that they deliver it on a shoe string budget. That they also


managed to simultaneously provide us with support for the talks, organise


our annual conference for that weekend and keep the party ticking


over is nothing short of miraculous. APPLAUSE


To Sharon, Debbie, Sam, Noula, Connie, Ben, Scott, Michael and


Lauren, thank you for all you do, most of which goes unseen, but all


of which is appreciated. To our constituency and research staff who


absorbed the upheaval, disruption and stress of setting up offices


after the May election only to have the future thrown into disarray


eight months later, but who have continued to provide the vital


constituency services on which our success rests, thank you for your


patience and dedication. Whilst we were delighted at the election


result, we never lost sight of the fact that the election in itself was


the result a political failure and unless the difficulties which


brought about that collapse can be resolved, then the future for


devolution is bleak. Whilst it was a successful election for alliance,


the mark of a truly successful election for us and for Northern


Ireland will be if the devolved institutions can be reformed and


power sharing restored on a more sustainable footing and we can start


the job of delivering real change for the people. Regardless of the


size of the mandate of any party, it is not worth the ballot papers on


which it is written, unless you can exercise it by working together with


others. That is the challenge we all face now and that will be the


challenge that we mains if the current talks fail to produce an


executive on Monday and another election is called. Bertie Ahern


described the prospect of another election as pointless time wasting.


It undoubtedly is. We will return to Stormont as we have after this


month's election with mostly the same parties, the same people and


the same problems. However, I think it's more serious than just a waste


of time. We are days away from the end of the financial year, yet we


have no budget. We are days away from the triggering of the Brexit,


yet we have no Brexit plan. We are already overdue the Assembly vote


required for the regional rate, yet we have no Assembly. We have no


programme for Government, in fact we have no Government. This is no time


for any party to indulge themselves in a vanity project that is another


election. Our community and voluntary sector are essential


public services, like health and education, are already feeling the


dire consequences of those who on budget uncertainty and reduce


services and job losses. We owe it to though who rely on those services


and who deliver them to get a functional executive established now


and get on with the job we were elected to do.


Whilst the collapse of the executive was disappointing, it was also


predictable. We realised that significant reform was required to


make it fit for purpose. When we entered negotiations in May about


the Justice Ministerery, we were clear about the failings of the


previous mandate and we offered five clear steps that would make progress


towards that reform. Firstly, we wanted to address deficiencies in


governance, particularly the abuse of the petition of concern. In order


not only that we could end the veto on socially progressive legislation,


for which there is overwhelming public support, but also that we can


ensure that no one party could recklessly skier size a veto over


others. The reform is long overdew. The failure of political parties to


confront legacy issues including ongoing paramilitarism in our


society was a point of tension. More importantly to improve the lives of


those living with its consequences. Thirdly, we recognised there was a


need for parties to face up and address the costs of segregation and


division in society. In order to allow us to build a more sure and


integrated society but also as part of the means of addressing the real


budget pressures facing departments and to put our public finances on a


sustainable footing. Fourthly, we sought a plan to develop and promote


integrated education in Northern Ireland as a means of delivering not


only high quality, sustainable education, but also as a means of


meeting the demands of parents for their children to be educated


together and for society to be healed. Fifth, we wanted to secure


additional funding for skills, not only could tuition fees be


maintained at the current level, without a negative impact on the


competitiveness of our universities, but to attract the high skilled jobs


and opportunities which we believe are necessary if we're going to


create a dynamic and balanced economy. The outright rejection of


our five points confirmed for us that any executive formed would not


only fail to address those key emerging challenges for the


community, and for devolution, but in the manner of that rejection, in


the high handed approach, we believed it would also potentially


struggle to deliver anything at all. As such it was not an executive of


which we could be part. The decision to go into opposition was not


without risk. But within months I think our position was vindicated


and within eight months the very issues which we raised contributed


to the executive's collapse. Whether in government or in opposition, we


are here to drive change for good. That means firstly good government.


As I prepare my conference speech each year I usually read through


speeches from the year before. When I addressed conference last year and


in almost every year before, I did so in the wake of scandal. Some


accusation of corruption, cronyism or growed at the heart of the


political system, whether an expenses scandal rbgs dodgy land


dealeds, an allegation that cast a shadow of doubt. Last year we had an


expenses scandal at appreciate allegations into Nama. This year the


whiff of corruption and cronyism became intolerable as further


allegations emerged about the social investment fund, public money, our


money, being used to line the pockets of those who the Chief


Constable described as community workers by day and paramilitaries by


night. That a self-proclaimed commander, who brazenly claims to be


Homeland Security, a direct challenge to the rule of law, can


continue as chief executive of an organisation which is in receipt of


government funds would be completely unthinkable elsewhere.


APPLAUSE It is long past time that it was


completely unthinkable here. And we stand here today without an Assembly


in place and with the future of devolution uncertain, in large part,


due to another scandal. That of the botched renewable heat incentive.


And of the inability of the executive to deal moo churl,


competently and transparently with the crisis that precipitated. I want


to pay tribute to the work of Trevor Lund as a member of the Public


Accounts Committee, diligently, patiently draw out key information,


exposing the flaws in the scheme, the inconsistencies in the accounts


and in how it was developed, implemented and monitored. The murky


influence of special advisors, who in some parties ah, peer to be


directing ministers rather than the other way round, the attempts to


conceal from public scrutiny the beneficiaries of the scheme. The


fact that even when the impact of the lack of cost controls had


implications for the budgets of other departments, the extent of the


projected overspend were hidden from executive colleagues. The lack of


full disclosure to the Assembly about the real reasons for the


overspend, all exposed as systemic failure in government. That was


compounded by the fact that those who presided over the mess seemed


happy to take power but not so happy to accept any responsibility. This


episode highlights to us all the need for real change in how the


executive conducts its business, in terms of openness and


accountability. It seems that history keeps repeating itself but


yet nothing is learned, nothing changes except that the whiff of


corruption is rapidly becoming a stench, which hangs heavily over the


guilty and innocent alike, and with every fresh revelation, every new


allegation, the public's trust and confidence in politics and


politicians is further eroded. Nowhere is that more clear than in


the area of political donations. Year after year we have pressed for


change for swift progress towards open and transparent politics. Year


after year, other parties have sought to prevent it. In doing so,


they further fuel the public's mistrust and suspicion. Public


scrutiny is critical to delivering open, transparent and accountability


governance. No politician should seek to pause progress towards


delivering it and the public will rightly question the Potives of


those who do. -- motives. In every other part of the UK, publication of


any donation or donations from a single source over ?7,500 is


mandatory. Northern Ireland is exempt on the basis of security.


However, the time has long since passed where our security situation


can be used to justify such a lack of transparency. You cannot argue on


one hand that Northern Ireland is a safe and stable region for inward


investment and tourism, whilst arguing on the other that it is so


abnormal, so dangerous that the degree of transparency around donors


can't apply here as elsewhere. APPLAUSE


Despite prolonged and sustained assaults by both disdant Republicans


and Loyalist paramilitaries on Alliance we continued to publish in


line with the standards in the rest of the UK. Alliance called in the


Secretary of State to end donor secrecy when we wrote to him in


December. We continue to make that case in the talks process for an


immediate lifting of the donor publication exemption. Thanks to an


amendment can I made to the Northern Ireland miscellaneous provisions act


at Westminster, all donations since January 2014, which reached the


publication threshold, can be made public once that security exemption


is lifted. Yet even now in the current talks, there are attempts to


limit any change to future donations only. We have been and will continue


to press hard on openness, transparency and accountability


between ministers and the executive, between the executive and the


Assembly and crucially, between political parties and the public we


are elected to serve. We have an opportunity to deliver good


government during the current talks process. We must not squander it. We


also remain focussed on delivering good services. For those of you at


the dinner last night, I'm sure you will recall Tom Aitken's speech. I


suspect some of you might never forget it. When he said the


relationships between parties are to improve and normalise the executive


and Assembly will regain the confidence of the public they need


to start doing things. They need to focus on delivery. That is all the


more the case given the pressures which our key public services face.


Our Health Service is facing a funding gap of ?200 million this


year alone. And the combination of increasing pressures from an ageing


population and advances in medical care make the future grave. Last


night David Gordon said if you could read a report and not wake up in a


sweat in the night, you were a braver person than he. It makes for


stark reading. The National Health Service is not sustainable without


major reform. I want to thank Paula Bradshaw for her sensible approach


for the need for reform. I believe as she does there are challenges for


the Health Service and such is the fundamental importance to every one


of us we need a cross-party compact agreed as part of the negotiations.


The party political campaigning on health reforms, regardless of who


becomes Health Minister, is simply out-of-bounds much we need all


parties to sign up to the road map presented and work with patients and


dlinical staff to shape a service fit for purpose for the future,


which delivers high quality care and is financially sustainable. That


cross-party approach has allowed real progress in places like


Manchester and Glasgow. Our constituents deserve no less.


Yes, the decisions will be difficult and some will be unpopular, but our


choice is not between the current service and a reformed service. Our


choice is between a reformed service and no service at all. The choice is


between an national health service and a notional helper service.


Whilst health is stark it is not the only server facing mounting


pressures, we also pays huge challenges in education, the


challenge of empty desks, lack of coherent planning and the continuing


planning of educational underachievement. I want to thank


Chris Little for the work he has done is vice-chair of the education


committee in holding the Minister to account, but also in East Belfast


but he has been one of the drivers in the East Belfast learning


partnership, aimed at driving up entertainment particularly in


disadvantaged areas. As an executive we need to focus on fostering good


religion chips, not just between parties in the Assembly but also in


the wider community. I think most people would recognise that whilst


the peace process has delivered relative stability, the


reconciliation process has long been this Cinderella element of the work.


APPLAUSE. This is real flu, not man flu!


APPLAUSE. We recognise the value of integrated education, not just in


terms of the efficiency of deliberate but also in terms of the


challenge that it makes to prejudice and in height helps build them


foster better relationships throughout our community. I am


hugely indebted to Kelley Armstrong put the work she has already


completed on her proposed bill to support integrated education and to


reform the mechanisms for transformation.


APPLAUSE. Kellie Armstrong has taken her bill


already through public consultation and I hope and trust that when the


executive is up and running we get the opportunity to debate that


legislation and to see it become law. We need more than just good


government and good relationships and good services, we need good


prospects for our young people if we are to build a better future and if


they are to see their future here with us making a contribution to


this community rather than elsewhere. Part of that is the work


that Stephen has been big -- doing in the Department of the economy but


also his work on Brexit because many young people the notion of us


becoming an inward looking society is not want that will tempt them to


remain. When it comes to it chews up skills and skills development it is


hugely important that we equip our young people that the talents and


abilities and we guide them towards the right career choices so they are


able to help our economy flourish, but also to realise their own


aspirations without having to leave Northern Ireland. I also want to


thank Stuart for the work he has done on social value legislation,


recognising the important role of the third sector in delivering


economic change. When I was at the young People's debate there were 40


young people in the room and they asked them how many of them saw


their future in Northern Ireland. Only five or six of them said that


they saw it here. The issue is not just about skills, it is about the


nature of the society that we create in Northern Ireland. Young people


will go away to university, go away and have experiences elsewhere and


that is a positive thing if they want to come back, but often what


they get is a flavour of a society that is more liberal, more tolerant,


more open and they don't want to return to a society where people in


politics dictate who they can marry and when they can buy a drink over


the weekend of Easter. They want to make those choices for themselves.


We need to change Northern Ireland society into the kind of society


when they are empowered to do that. APPLAUSE.


That project also requires good leadership. There has been much talk


for very obvious reasons over recent days about what leadership looks


like. The passing of Martin McGuinness put the nature of his


leadership in the Spotlight, but also in how people responded to news


of his death at the wider issue of leadership under scrutiny. As


someone who grew up in the 1970s and 80s I am under no illusion of the


role of Martin McGuinness and the IRA on our community. I will never


seek to diminish the wrong that was done with the grief that was caused


or in any way to justify the use of violence in Northern Ireland. It not


acceptable now and it was not acceptable them.


APPLAUSE. Neither do I whitewash at the broken


and profoundly unjust nature of this society into which people like


Martin McGuinness was born. I understand the anger that led many


young people right across our community to turn to violence,


nevertheless I still believe that choice was wrong, destructive and


ultimately did more harm than good. In all I have said and done since I


have acknowledged the justifiable anger hurt and pain of those most


affected by violence, those who bear the physical, mental and emotional


scars of terrorism. I also recognise that in these last 20 years he not


only moved away from violence but sought to bring others were sent. I


recognise the value of the work that he did, not only in challenging his


opponents but also in stretching his constituency throughout his time in


office as a minister, and in offices Deputy First Minister. People like


Martin McGuinness, like Ian Paisley, like David Ervine and many others


have a chequered past. They contributed in word and indeed to


the Troubles and to the painful legacy which we have inherited. But


I acknowledge and appreciate that they also contributed to the peace


when they moved away from those entrenched positions towards the


relative peace that we now enjoy. That move a lot of progress to be


made towards a brighter future and for that I am grateful. However,


that darker legacy is still with us and even this week we have continued


to wrestle with that. In how we find the right words to express our


sympathy to a grieving family without it the same time compounding


the pain of another grieving family. How do we complete the work of


trying to address the needs of victims and survivors, their varying


desires for truth, justice, support and recognition in a way that


demonstrates integrity, compassion and honesty, but also allows us to


move forward. If we are to do so, to transition beyond bitterness and


hatred beyond division and conflict, beyond revenge and recrimination,


then that the man that we reconcile ourselves not only with each other


but also with our pimple and broken history. Ultimately, in life we make


peace with the enemy is not with their friends so we have to find it


within us to get the generosity, the grace, the bigger vision of a better


future that gives us the strength and determination to do so in


difficult days. The past cannot be undone, but it does not have to be


repeated. It cannot and should not be raised but it also cannot and


should not forever overshadow and limit our future. We must find a way


to make up in the dark places. APPLAUSE.


-- make hope in the dark places. As I draw my remarks to a close I


want to turn my thoughts are other leaders. Some with us in this room,


some who have now passed on. Who lived through those times but he


chose peace when violence was the more obvious choice, he chose


building as shared futures when others were ripping the present


apart. I think the leadership of those who came together in 1970 and


formed the Alliance Party as a radical alternative to a divisive


than violent politics. At a time when others to Northern Ireland over


the brink of destructive action and reaction, people who made Hope


flourish in a dark moment. I think the leadership of those who joined


them lead the party throughout the 1970s and 80s who worked ceaselessly


for peace, Facebook are courageously against every injustice and all


violence and continued to be a voice of reason and calm in unreasonable


and turbulent times, who made Hope flourish throughout the darkest of


days. I think of the leadership of those who lead the party through


successive rounds and talks up to and after the Good Friday Agreement,


who were consistent in their commitment to devolution and in


their support for the rule of law, who reconcile... Who recognise that


reconciliation is not a soft option but a hard necessity if we are going


to secure real peace and not merely the absence of violence. They


offered a real alternative to the darkness. They ensured that the hope


of real change would continue to flourish. We in this room are the


people who carry forward that legacy, who are charged with being


the change-makers for today and tomorrow. We have a vision of a


society which is not about us and them, but about what we can do


together. We have a rich and diverse membership, one which is growing


rapidly in every part of Northern Ireland, membership is made up of


people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientations,


faith abilities. What makes us strong are our shared beliefs and


our common values. Those values bridge across our membership from


the founder members of this party to the newest members in the room. We


are connected by a fundamental belief that our people here, I ever


diverse, have more in common than divides them. When it comes to


difference we have a choice. We can use it to divide people and we can


make it a weakness, or we can embrace and celebrate our diversity


and make it our strength. In the Alliance Party we will celebrate it.


We have a strong and proud legacy, but more importantly, we have an


important job to do in this society, continuing to offer an alternative


vision for the future, and aspirational vision of a society


which is progressive, liberal, fair and open in which rights are


respected, talented celebrated commerce creativity is nurtured and


each person is valued. That is a vision which only a party which


itself is progressive, liberal, fair and open, a party that has a diverse


and vibrant membership, a party committed to offering hope for the


future can truly represent. Today in Parliament buildings just across the


road the future of devolution hangs in the balance. The clock is ticking


down to Mandy's deadline. Whilst others may secretly hanker for a


period of direct rule or feel that another election may offer the


chance of a better result for their party, we are clear that neither


will solve the problems we face today. Voter turnout in the Assembly


election was the highest we have seen since the first election after


the group by the agreement was signed. People saw the institutions


in jeopardy and the clear message they gave to each of our selected


was they want to see devolution restored and delivering. Our peace


process and our institutions are imperfect and unfinished. They are a


work in progress. The clear message from voters was the one echoed by


Bill Clinton on Thursday. Finish the work. Conference, we are up for that


task and whatever is ahead, the talks or elections, whether in


government or in opposition, we will play a positive and constructive


role in raising the standards of government, of moving beyond


divisions of our past, of building peace and reconciliation, of driving


forward a progressive liberal, just and vibrant society, of being a


radical alternative to binary politics, of ensuring that Hope


continues to flourish, of delivering change for good. Thank you.


APPLAUSE. So, that was Naomi Long's speech to


the Alliance Party conference as leader. Not surprisingly, she is


getting a standing ovation from members of the party who were


clearly impressed with what she had to say. She is shaking hands with


Trevor Lunn, she specifically referenced him on her work with


their RHI issue. She has been braced by David Ford. Michael Long, her


husband, Belfast City Council. These are significant members of the


Alliance Party. She makes her way down through the body of the hall.


She did reference in that speech as we expected the death of Martin


McGuinness, the Alliance Party's vision of a shared society, a party


on the up after a good result. A good result in this month's Paul.


She also talked about getting the challenge of the devolution project


getting up and running again. Let's go back to the competent doctor or


political editor, Mark Devenport. No huge surprises there. She ticked the


box is that we thought she would do. Again, no huge surprise, but for her


positive that she received such a warm response from the delegates


that there. I budget was always going to receive a warm response.


She said she is still getting used to the notion that she is a leader,


she said that she thinks people are talking about David Ford when she


hears people talk about the leader of the Alliance Party. She had to


stop and take a couple of drinks of water because she had real flu, not


man flu, she said. They don't seem to know yet if they will go into


government or opposition yet, because the talks are still going


on. A speech like that it is going into directions. It is partly for


people like ourselves and our audience at home which is not


necessarily an Alliance Party supporting audience, but it was


directed at the new members of the Alliance Party, the rank and file


who have done so much to get the party to where it is. They are


critical to what she is talking about today. Yes. She is trying to


urge them on. She talked about the geographical spread that she hopes


will happen. They held onto their eight seats, that has to be good in


a diminished assembly but there are still large parts of Northern


Ireland where there are not represented. She said they are


recruiting in nontraditional areas to go out and fight for the


extension of the party. I have a couple of senior linesman is with


me. Kellie Armstrong, Strangford MLA, beside Stephen Farry, North


Down MLA. Kellie Armstrong got a big mention in this speech, the cameras


looked around for her, but they couldn't find her because she was


standing beside me! No problem. One moment in the speech was when Naomi


Long set out the red lines for going into government last time. She said


there had been an outright rejection of those by the bigger parties. You


are in the talks team working on matters of governance such as the


kitchens of concern. Are you getting a more sympathetic hearing from the


big parties than you did previously. We are sticking firmly to the fact


that there does need to be a review of the Petitions of Concern. We


don't believe that it should be taken away because we still have to


protect minorities and the most vulnerable in society. We are


working through those issues as part of the governance. She referred to


the murky influence of special advisers, which was part of the


story around the Renewable Heat Incentive. Do you think there will


be any changes in relation to that? I think there will be. There will be


more transparency. We have been pushing this seat that those special


advisers will be totally responsible to their ministers, we will see how


much they are paid, what they're standing is. This is all part of a


package of different negotiations we are having. Naomi Long says there


will be a meeting of your ruling council later on today. She wanted


to have the deal in her hand that you could discuss as to whether you


would go into government or not before that, but no sign of bad


deal. Not at this stage. We are on a tide clock through Monday lunchtime


for a deal to be in place. We are clear, the longer the parties leave


the deal is the more difficult it will be for people to sign up to it.


The parties have their own democratic processes to go through.


The longer the process goes on, the stronger the prospect that all we


will see is a DUP and Sinn Fein carve up or sticking plaster. This


is not the new start. This is not the break from the staters go


before. Every we are to seek proper devolution restored, it has to be on


that inclusive basis. If you haven't got a deal to put to the ruling


council, does that mean you are out rock to call them back at short


notice and have a big meeting all over again? We will brief them on


where things stand and get the temperature of the room as to how


people feel. There will be at definitive book taken today because


we don't have anything concrete to put to them. For sure, we had a man


did last year around the five points that Naomi Long repaired the inner


conference speech. In the absence of anything else, that stands as our


guide to take those decisions in the days head. We hear that Robin Swann


is the only candidate for the Ulster Unionist ship leadership. He will


have a coronation next month only takes over from Mike Nesbitt. Is he


a leader that you fear? The Ulster Unionist Party have a lot of issues


to address over the coming months in terms of how they will be


positioning themselves. On a personal level I want to


congratulate him. I work very closely with him when he was the


chair of the Assembly committee and I think we work very constructively.


Rob and has a major challenge ahead. Are they looking for the right to


compete with the DUP, will they compete on our territory? We are


clear in our vision and values. Kellie Armstrong, what are you get


from your sense of talking to people here, would there be more


comfortable in government or opposition? We could have an


assembly with 85 MLAs after the 90 in government. Our membership is


happy being in government or outside. Where we have to be clear


is what we will be able to achieve in government. If there is a


government with a done deal tied up between Sinn Fein and the DUP, the


May not be able to buy into that. Until we see the paperwork and what


the agreement is, we will decide today, or perhaps on Monday. Have


you got a stack of election posters in your back room that you're given


to put up on the lamp posts? Perhaps. What about you, Stephen?


Whenever we talk about a second election, people were clear with


their vote is the first time around, they want the Assembly back on a


proper basis, one that works. If people feel that an election is


something that they could have a reward whether to get a stronger


mandate, then we will let... Is that the way the big parties are looking


at this, as a vanity project? I have been questioning both the DUP and


Sinn Fein about them doing a deal, they are saying the words but their


actions suggest otherwise. Did the DUP see any electoral advantage out


of squeezing even more out of the Ulster Unionist? Does Sinn Fein want


to see if they can get more pressure for a border poll? Both that those


then amateur pulling the society about. That election would not


benefit getting devolution restored. People need to work together for the


common good. They can't, nobody can do it by themselves. You put up an


integrated Education Bill. If we end up for the period of direct bowl,


Private Members' Bill is backed legislation of that kind will come


to a grinding halt. Do you feel that devolution is so much better than


the possibility of direct rule is to merge with things like integrated


education I definitely think so. They want integrated education but


they want a devolved government to deliver it. That is what they said


at the polls last time. ?5 million is the cost of an election, we do


want that to happen because that is the cost of a primary school. We


need a budget and a devolved government to deliver that. Kellie


Armstrong, Stephen Farry, there mutts leave it. Back to you, Mark.


Noisy, but we did hear what Mark and his guests had to say. Professor


Wilford is still sitting alongside me. Time for a final word before we


bring the programme to a close. There is an interesting reflection


for Naomi Long. Did she make a mistake, did the party make a


mistake, not going into government last May and how will that


influenced the decision that the party has to take the stand if the


devolution project is resurrected in the next few days or weeks? It is a


question not only that she has to address, but both the SDLP and the


Ulster unionists have to address as well. She will only sanction a


return to government, and the only way they will do that is if they are


offered the justice portfolio, is whether her red lines in relation to


institutional reform, more efficient use of public resources and so on


are met. They weren't met last May. Was the bar set too high? If they


were to accept, or through the justice ministry... What we heard


from the speech was how uncertain the context is. We don't know, it is


only just over two days from now, that we will know of are going to


get an executive or potentially another election or back in rule. It


was a broad brush stroke. She gave lots of thanks to all those super


crucial in helping them to succeed at the election, I think vote of


thanks for David Forde, but it was evident, wasn't it, and from the


interview that Mark just did, how uncertain the situation actually is.


They can't go to the ruling council and say these are the terms of an


offer that we have been made over justice, for example. They simply


don't know. I am curious to know what you think the relationship


would be between the Alliance Party and an Ulster Unionist Party led by


Robin Swann. Would that be good news or a challenge? I think it would be


good news. To the extent that they faced the challenge over the kind of


electoral ground that they were competing for. Mike Nesbitt on paper


Luke Moore of... He had liberal, progressive attitudes towards things


like gay rights, which he changed his mind on. Robin Swann is much


more socially conservative character. In relation to that sort


of agenda, the Alliance Party will feel comfortable that Robin Swann is


taking over. I think they would see that they would have more space to


the left and right with Robin Swann. I don't think there will be terribly


worried about that. It does look like a coronation for Robin Swann.


The transparency over political donations, Naomi Long myth that the


key point. This is something that her under predecessor have been


banging on about for a long time. The Alliance Party operates clearly


on this issue and wishes that the other parties followed its line. As


things stand, the other parties don't have to move. The Green party


has. It discloses its financing. In a sense, the parties could


voluntarily decide to disclose all donations that they receive from


whatever source. They choose not to currently. They could be compelled


to buy Westminster legislation, and the Secretary of State could demand


of the political parties that they fall into line with the legislation


and disclose their funding. It is an interesting matter that will


continue to form part of the political debate. That is if from


this year's Alliance Party conference. Join me for some the


conference politics tomorrow morning. Goodbye.


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