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A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

Naomi Long’s speech at Alliance conference…

The panel prior to Naomi Long's speech

Some elected pars from Naomi’s speech.

Not many would have predicted that a year later I would be standing here at the MP for East Belfast and that David Ford would have taken up the reins at the Department of Justice. I say not many because, if you read David Ford’s speech from last year, you’ll see that he did. In fact he was remarkably accurate in his predictions for the year ahead. Any of you who play the lottery may well be regretting not asking him to give some advice on the numbers, while he was on  roll.

The people know that voting Alliance works. In May it delivered a change in who represents them in Westminster, but I think it has also driven a change in those who don’t. Does anyone really think the DUP would be making positive noises about integrated education if they had held the seat in East Belfast? The people of East Belfast led the way in May, and now others are following them.

Alliance played a critical role in the negotiations which led to the devolution of policing and justice powers. Our focus was to ensure that the Minister, whomever that would eventually be, would be able to fulfil the demands of what is a challenging and sensitive post in a way that would command the confidence of the whole community. I think we got the structures right. But most of all I think that we go the Minister right.

But being a Minister is not a fair-weather job. Creating an impression at this stage that cuts can be avoided is not just delusional, but dangerous. Refusing to face reality or causing delay by avoiding hard choices is doing the public a disservice, denying them the chance to properly examine the proposals which have been made and challenging any weaknesses. Uncertainty is always the worst option.

2010 was a remarkable year for alliance – a year of real achievement – but 2011 is a new year, full of fresh opportunities not just for this party but for the people we represent. However, between opportunity and reality lies a lot of hard work.

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Filed under: Alliance Party, conferences,

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