Councillor Webb speaks with the voice of all members of both sister parties, certainly that of the NI Lib Dems’ Chair, whose family memories of St. Mary’s, Star of the Sea extend back through the whole of its existence. There have been well over one hundred attacks on this church since the advent of the 1968 Troubles, and on more than one occasion priests resident in the adjoining Parochial House have had to be evacuated by Police. We call on anyone who may have information pertaining to this act of base thuggery to bring it into the possession of the PSNI.
The Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats wish to express their condemnation of, and disgust at, the actions of those who today saw fit to bring fear and disruption to bear against our sister party and its neighbours in East Belfast.
Conflict resolution is an evolutionary process. The environment changes, and attributes which once gave advantage no longer do. Many actors in our society who once spoke only in the language of violence have chosen to adapt to this change, and now pursue the needs and concerns of their constituencies with the new advantages given to them by participation in political, social and economic processes. As this year of attacks on, and threats to, Alliance has shown, a small number of the ruthless still seek to try in vain to resurrect the advantages once gained for them by thuggery.
We are always proud to stand as one with our friends and colleagues in Alliance, never more than when they are threatened by those who would, without thought of consequence, destroy the political and social progress for which Alliance has so tirelessly fought since its foundation.
Anyone who knows David Ford knows him to be a person of great depth, a fundamental seriousness, and immense commitment. Commitment to many important things that contribute so much to life here in Northern Ireland. To the Social Services. To the Ministry of Justice. To his constituents. To Alliance. To the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
To any observer, it seems disproportionate and unnecessary that, after a lifetime of service, he is, because of a disagreement over a single issue, being denied the chance to continue to fulfill that last commitment. To anyone who knows Mr. Ford, and knows how much Presbyterianism means to him, it seems disproportionate, unnecessary, reactionary, humiliating and very, very cruel.
It is not the province of this blog to instruct those who hold power in Mr. Ford’s church. Those who wish to function in a reasonably secular public space must grant a reasonable privacy in the religious space.
We would, however, offer, in a genuine absence of rancour, and in a genuine spirit of free and open exchange, the following quotation from a lecture delivered by the Dalai Lama at Harvard University in 1988:
“The very purpose of religion is to control yourself, not to criticise others. Rather, we must criticise ourselves. How much am I doing about my anger? About my attachment, about my hatred, about my pride, my jealousy? These are the things which we must check in daily life.”
It is sad news this morning that Northern Ireland learnt of the passing of Sir Oliver Napier.
He originally joined the Ulster Liberal Party in 1969 before becoming a founding member of the Alliance Party in 1970 he led the party from 1972-1984 as the first leader.
Indeed until last year had been the closest any Alliance candidate had come to getting elected to Westminster, when in 1979 he was came close to beating Peter Robinson in Belfast East: coming only 928 votes behind in third place in a three-way battle. When Naomi Long took that seat off the same Peter Robinson in the 2010 General Election it could be seen as a breakthrough for the “alternative reform political programme to push through and continue reformation in Northern Ireland” that was what Napier said about the creation of the new party 40 years earlier.
In the 1973 Northern Ireland Assembly he also set a precedent for the current Assembly when he served as the Legal Minister and head of the Office of Law Reform. When the post was devolved again in 2010 it fell to the Alliance Party leader David Ford to be elected Minister of Justice.
Oliver Napier who stood here in North Down the only time I have able to vote in a Westminster election. Having stepped back up to the ballot box for the 1995 by-election to replace jim Kilfedder he stood again for the 1997 General Election, by which time I was back in Northern Ireland. So far he is the only Northern Irish politician I have voted for with an X.
As Alliance Party leader David Ford said today:
“This is an extremely sad day for Northern Ireland. Oliver embodied the spirit of Alliance and he was the man who inspired me to join the party.
“Sir Oliver was very highly respected and popular with everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him. His legacy can be seen right at the heart of the party to this day and he will very sadly missed.”
Like David, we in the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats wish to pass on our regards, thoughts and prayers to his widow Briege, nine children and 23 grandchildren at this difficult time.
1. A fair, free and open society “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality, and community and in which no one shall be enslaved, by poverty, ignorance or conformity.”
2. Openness and transparency
The Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats fully support the openness and transparency that would be brought about by the full implementation of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 in Northern Ireland.
Therefore, we support the implementation of Option 12, id est Allow the prescribed period to expire and make the full register of donations available to the public.
Our position has not changed. I do not understand what parties – if not individuals – have got to hide. There ought to be public outcry about this. However, some people may be prepared to continue with the status quo: perhaps they have too much invested in getting politicians to do as they want.
Last week, I blogged about the lack of recognition of the Northern Ireland local party of the Liberal Democrats by the Federal Party website.
This evening, quite by chance, I noticed that there is a link at the bottom of the Federal Party‘s homepage for ‘N. Ireland’.
Where does this link go?
It goes to the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland – a sister party within Liberal International. Now, there may have been plans, or indeed hopes, in the past that the Alliance Party would become a State Party of the Liberal Democrats. I am sure that what has happened in the House of Commons, where Naomi Long, Member of Parliament for Belfast East stated before the election that she would not take the Lib Dem whip, makes it clear that there is little chance of Alliance Party = Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland.
Stephen blogged well over a year ago about making a formal link up*,
The Lib Dems in Northern Ireland have long taken the stance that they would not contest elections but lend support to the most prominent centrist party, which is the Alliance Party with their 7 Assembly Members and 32 councillors.
but this has not happened – nor is it likely to, according to discussions Stephen had with Alliance’s executive director, Gerry Lynch. It is a fact that former Alliance leader Lord Alderdice sits as a Liberal Democrat Peer in the House of Lords, but this looks like it will continue to have no effect upon forming a formal link up.
Unless and until the Alliance Party becomes the Liberal Democrats’ State Party in Northern Ireland, the Federal Party needs to recognise that they are not this. The local party needs to be publicised, and as chair of the local party, I will be writing (not emailing) to seek the fixing of this. I will update you on the progress.