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Friday, November 28, 2003


My friend David Ford has been re-elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly. David is the leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. He was defending the sixth and last seat in South Antrim. He was under intense pressure from Sinn Fein to hold this seat, which is why my colleagues and I travelled over there on Monday to help out. In the end David held on by 180 votes and was elected on the eleventh count after two days of counting - this is an STV election after all! Could he not have found a more marginal seat?

The Alliance Party seem to have held onto all of their six seats despite a strong squeeze from both the DUP and Sinn Fein. The bad news in terms of establishing a stable government in Northern Ireland is that these two parties have now secured more seats than their more moderate equivalents. Whereas it was possible to see the UUP and the SDLP working together in a power sharing executive, it is not so likely that the DUP and Sinn Fein will follow suit. Unless there is fundamental reform of the Northern Ireland Assembly to remove the institutional sectarianism that it is built on then we may well look back on these elections as a blind alley for the peace process and devolution.

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