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1998 Assembly Election - Alliance Party Manifesto

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Text: Alliance Party of Northern Ireland ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna
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Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
Manifesto, June 1998

It's Time For Tomorrow...


On 25th June, your vote will make a difference. You can either vote for the politics of the past, or the politics of tomorrow. How will you decide?

As you think about this decision, I hope that you will read this manifesto carefully. In it we set out the Alliance vision for a new society in Northern Ireland. A society where everyone can feel valued and where everyone has a part to play. A stable, prosperous, tolerant and fair society.

The elections to the new Assembly present us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the way Northern Ireland is governed. In future it will be the people of Northern Ireland who make the decisions about the real issues that affect our day to day lives. Our elected politicians will be given responsibility for government in a way that is quite different from the Direct Rule of the last 25 years.

Compare our manifesto with those of the other parties and I believe you will see that Alliance is offering exactly what thoughtful people want. On June 25th, you will have your chance to choose what sort of Assembly you want for the next four years. The choice could not be clearer. It is time to reject the politics of division and despair. We offer you real benefits, real improvements in the quality of your life, and an end to sectarian politics - in short, the promise of a better future for our country. That is the choice Northern Ireland is offered. That is the difference Alliance will make.

Most analysts now believe that Alliance can hold the balance of power in the new Assembly, so voting for Alliance has never been more important. The potential of Alliance has never been so powerful. The position of Alliance , at the heart of the Assembly, will be central to the future of Northern Ireland. While others will try to tear it apart, you can vote in a strong Alliance team to hold it...


Alliance has consistently fought for equal treatment for everyone in Northern Ireland. We believe in a liberal, pluralist and democratic society where everyone has the same opportunities and rights.

If we claim rights and freedoms for ourselves, we must guarantee the same rights and freedoms for everyone, otherwise no-one is truly free.

Alliance is committed to:
A Bill of Rights for the whole of the United Kingdom, through the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Equal respect for human rights both North and South of the border. Establishing a new Human Rights Commission for Northern Ireland to enforce the Bill of Rights.

Discrimination is often seen only in terms of Catholics and Protestants, Unionists and Nationalists but discrimination on grounds of disability, race, gender, age, marital status and sexual orientation is just as widespread.

Alliance supports:
An Equality Code banning all forms of discrimination on the same basis. We will set up an Equality Commission to enforce it. There can be no hierarchy of discrimination. One form is as bad as any other. Strengthening the laws that protect disabled people against discrimination. Giving disabled people their independence, by assisting those who wish to work but cannot fully support themselves financially. Extending full employment and pension rights to part-time workers, many of whom are women. Promotion of equal pay for equal work.

Over 3600 people have died in the Troubles. Many thousands more were injured, some permanently. They and their families deserve recognition and respect.

Alliance will:
Create a statutory requirement for victims to have full information on the release of those who attacked them. Recognise and respect victims' suffering, by full implementation of the Bloomfield Report. Support properly funded services for victims, based in the community.

If the deep divisions of the last 30 years are to be healed, the Assembly must take a positive and proactive approach in the vital area of Community Relations.

Alliance will:
Set up a Department of Community Relations. Encourage schools to promote a pluralist ethos, where all traditions are respected. Give local Councils a statutory responsibility for encouraging community interaction and providing neutral venues for meetings and activities. Promote integration at all levels, in schooling, work, leisure and housing. Require all Government Departments and other public bodies to assess the impact of policies in reducing divisions and separation in Northern Ireland society.


Alliance is fully committed to the fundamental principle of equity of access, based on need, to a National Health Service free at the point of delivery and funded from general taxation. Effective care and treatment must be available to all patients on a fair basis, with decisions about care and resources made as close as possible to the patients and users, but within a coherent regional health strategy.

Alliance will:

Treat the patients of all GPs equally, with care being arranged through local commissioning groups where services can be tailored to the needs of clients and patients.

Support adequate, effective funding for community care, targeted according to need.

Extend the Patients' Charter guarantees on the level and quality of care to the private sector, particularly nursing and residential homes.

Provide care for carers by improving respite care and extending benefits to carers - who are mostly women - as resources allow.

Improve health education on issues like drug and alcohol awareness and sexually transmitted diseases, so that people can take more responsibility for improving their own health.

Join with the Republic of Ireland and other European states to fight illegal drugs trafficking.

Reinstate free eye and dental checks.

Work with the Republic of Ireland to set up a Food Safety Commission, setting best standards for food hygiene and safety throughout the island.

When people are sick, they need hospitals. The current regional strategy focuses on providing an accessible, high quality service to everyone organised on a province-wide basis. Alliance will abolish the current Health and Social Services Boards in favour of a single regional Board accountable to a Health and Social Services Committee of the Assembly. Money saved on unnecessary administration will be released to direct patient care.

Alliance will:

Promote the implementation of the Regional Strategy on health care for Northern Ireland, to ensure a high quality, accessible service for all.

Develop further a Cancer Centre and local cancer units for Northern Ireland based on the Campbell Report, to deal with the increasing incidence of cancer.

Work to promote our district general hospitals as centres of excellence, servicing, and supported by, local community hospitals.

Consider how Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland can cooperate in health services, training and equipment for the benefit of everyone, especially in addressing the needs of those who live in Border areas.

Move from annual to 3 yearly contracts for Trusts.

Support a ban on tobacco advertising and a rise in tax on tobacco, raising more money for health care.

Ensure a more transparent selection procedure, based on merit, for Trust Board Members, who should represent the community.


Alliance has made it a priority to build a strong economy which creates new jobs and generates economic wealth. Prosperity will help cement the peace process, as the benefits of peace and stability become clear for all to see.


The initial years of a Northern Ireland Assembly will require tough decision-making. Alliance is best placed, through its economic policies, to ensure that Northern Ireland prospers.

Alliance supports:

Power for the Assembly to reduce and increase tax. In this way, business can grow and, at the same time, money can be put into hospitals and schools.

"Enterprise in Education" initiatives introduced for children at specific levels in all primary and secondary schools.

An Ireland-wide local sourcing initiative.

A new "Made in Northern Ireland" campaign.

Upgrading and improving roads infrastructure and traffic flow on the Westlink, the Newry - Larne route and the main Londonderry - Enniskillen route.

Pursuit of the most efficient energy sources.

The principle of "New Deal" as part of a strategy for creating new jobs, conditional on proper funding and integration with existing measures for the long-term unemployed.

Tackling long-term unemployment by improving training, especially vocational and work-based schemes.

Extension of Enterprise Zones.

Given high-tech competition from western Europe and the Far East and low cost competition from eastern Europe, Northern Ireland needs to develop rapidly a technically advanced, high-waged economy. This means playing to our strengths in the tourism and service industries and exploring innovative ways to attract manufacturing investors and support indigenous businesses.

Alliance will:

Continue to work with Northern Ireland businesses, trade unions and community groups on our much praised action plan for jobs.

Promote Ireland as a tourist destination through North-South co-operation, particularly for long-haul visitors from USA, Europe and Australia.

Build on links with other growing economies to help bring new investment to the province.

Work towards the UK's participation in the Single Currency to offset any potential dislocation when the Republic of Ireland joins the EMU and the United Kingdom does not.

The Assembly must look radically and energetically at options and alternatives in economic development. The collective brains and experience of practitioners in business, the community, trade unions and politics have been harnessed to devise the Alliance agenda for economic action. The strength and growth of Northern Ireland PLC depends on implementing the Alliance proposals, "An Economy Fit for the Future".


Agriculture and food processing make up the most important sector of the Northern Ireland economy. Agenda 2000, the next round of the World Trade discussions, BSE and food safety issues all threaten traditional agriculture. The Assembly must ensure that farmers are properly supported through change, so that they can adapt to changes in EU production support measures and world conditions.

Alliance will work for:

Better international recognition of the high quality of Northern Ireland agriculture.

A common rural policy throughout the EU, so that efficient producers are not penalised.

Modulation of farm income support to take regional factors into account.

Encouragement to producers to reach the highest standards of food safety, animal welfare and food quality and to ensure that processing activities take place locally.

Assistance to encourage diversification, both in the development of niche markets and for larger scale land use, such as forestry and biomass.

A broad-based reassessment of rural development issues, to maximise economic activity consistent with environmental protection.

Support for coastal fisheries and fish farming to maximise the sustainable potential of this resource.

Direct representation of Northern Ireland in Europe, up to Council of Ministers level.


Without universal respect for the law of the land and those who enforce it, no-one can feel safe.


Great courage and professionalism has been shown by the Royal Ulster Constabulary during the Troubles, at immense personal cost to individual police officers, their families, and other public servants. It is primarily the terrorist threat which obliged the RUC to carry arms and enforce legislation which can be at odds with their civil policing role. Occasionally, individual police officers have fallen short of the standards we expect of them. This must be recognised and addressed for the future. As circumstances allow, emergency legislation must be phased out and the carrying of weapons must become exceptional, rather than the rule.

Alliance will:

Promote safeguards to ensure the police service is effective, impartial and free from partisan political control.

Create a Department of Justice accountable to the Assembly, with responsibility for policing and all aspects of criminal justice.

Maintain the operational independence of the Chief Constable.

Promote Community-Police Liaison Committees (CPLCs).

Replace the Police Authority with a new regional Advisory Council representing the CPLCs.

Ensure a fully independent police complaints procedure, headed by an independent Ombudsman.

Enhance and reinforce public confidence in the police by a review of police training and procedures, including in-service training and the promotion of community policing skills.

Introduce favourable early retirement packages for those who wish it, as the situation allows the number of police officers to be reduced.

Encourage increased applications to the police from the nationalist tradition, so that the service will increasingly reflect the public it serves.

Enhance co-operation between the RUC and the Garda Siochana including the formation of a joint unit to combat Cross-border crime.


Alliance is totally committed to the decommissioning of all terrorist weapons. We believe that power-sharing in Government on the basis of trust can only be fully achieved when the threat of paramilitary action is removed. This includes the dismantling of terrorist structures and the cessation of vigilante-style activities. Beatings must stop if the community is to have confidence in the cease-fires. Alliance believes that the early release of prisoners and participation in Government must be linked to the dismantling of terrorist organisations.


Alliance recognises that the issue of prisoners is a difficult and sensitive one. Victims of crime, and society as a whole, have the right to expect wrongdoers to be punished. In the context of Northern Ireland, it should also be acknowledged that some prisoners were drawn into terrorist activity by indoctrination or duress. As part of the overall settlement, Alliance accepts the increase in the rate of remission and the early release, on licence, of prisoners whose organisations maintain their cease-fires. Such releases must, however, be subject to safeguards for the whole community, which must be protected from threats of violence.


Investment in education is an investment in the future. Alliance is dedicated to creating a vibrant society, typified by diversity, not division - by sharing, not separation. The best start we can give our children is high quality early years education.

Alliance will:

Support integrated life-long education. Working together and learning to enjoy each other's traditions dilutes age-old prejudice.

Support an increase in nursery education places.

Promote high standards in early years education. Pre-school education must be supervised by qualified staff, working to high standards for care, curriculum and premises.

Northern Ireland's education system encourages division. Segregation can strongly reinforce prejudice. The future lies in respect and in sharing.

Alliance will: -

Respect parental choice in the schooling available for children. We will encourage partnership between parents and teachers.

Encourage wider teaching and enjoyment of the Irish and Ulster-Scots languages and culture, which are our mutual heritage, in line with parental choice.

Promote integrated education by proper financial support. Where there is competition for funding of existing schools, funding should follow the number of enrolled pupils.

Encourage the transformation of existing schools to integrated status where this reflects parental choice.

Review the education system and national curriculum to ensure our system best serves the learning needs of all our children.

Support children with special needs. Alliance will support the implementation of a Code of Practice for Special Educational Needs.

Encourage teacher training colleges to share courses at Stranmillis, St Mary's and Queens University Belfast. Excellence in teaching should be rewarded, encouraging high standards and restoring teachers' morale.

Alliance believes education is a life-long process and not just for school. Greater partnership is necessary between industry, commerce and institutions of further and higher education to equip students for work.

Alliance will: -

Review tuition fees for university students. We believe cost should not prevent able students from continuing their studies.

Review the current student loans system so that students can repay loans, dependent on their income, over an extended period of time.

Ensure that the system of tuition fees and student loans should not hinder students from studying in any part of the United Kingdom or limit their choice of course.

Promote flexible learning. Alliance recognises the importance of chances to train (or retrain) while coping with work or family, particularly for women returning to the job market.

Expand opportunities for young people to ensure they acquire work and life skills, either through education or on-the-job training.

Continue our support for the Springvale Campus initiative, which will increase attainment in an area of high unemployment and draw students from all sides of the community.

Promote cross-border co-operation on mutual recognition of qualifications, without artificial barriers such as an Irish language qualification.

Alliance believes that the five Education and Library Boards in Northern Ireland should be replaced by a regional administrative system for the whole province, accountable to the Assembly. The money saved on administration can be put to good use in the classroom, where class sizes are becoming too large for our children to have the individual attention they deserve.


Our precious environment has been damaged by greed and indifference. Alliance will promote measures to safeguard the environment in towns and the countryside, while penalising those causing pollution. This will require the reform of the Department of the Environment so that its duty to protect the environment is not constantly at risk from its other responsibilities. We are fortunate in Northern Ireland to have retained many rare species of plants and animals, but we need to protect them.

Alliance recognises the need for:

New targets for the reduction of traffic pollution and waste to reduce global warming, cut air pollution and prevent waste.

A shift in taxation away from income and towards pollution and resource depletion.

Environment and energy objectives to be built into all new legislation.

A multi-agency approach to planning and development of our main cities and towns, with safeguards on preserving green belts and rural communities.

Public management and protection for heritage sites and ancient buildings.

Action, jointly with the authorities in Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland to prevent marine pollution and to protect our beaches.

Alliance supports:

a sustainable energy policy for Northern Ireland which maximises energy efficiency and minimises consumption of non-renewable resources. New energy sources should be supported by public funding as well as by the private sector.

Alliance will continue its promotion of:

Innovative sources of power, such as wind and wave energy, bio-fuels, and agricultural and municipal wastes.

Energy inter-connectors between Northern Ireland and the Republic and between Northern Ireland and Great Britain ,as long as environmental concerns are met.

Energy ratings for private houses, encouraging better insulation and energy conservation measures.

Within Northern Ireland, Alliance is committed to an integrated transport strategy for the province, incorporating transportation by rail, road, air and sea. This will reduce air pollution and waste.

Alliance supports:-

Reducing traffic congestion in the Greater Belfast area by improved, economical public transport, park and ride facilities, and cycle path schemes.

European standards for the main arterial routes both within Northern Ireland and throughout the island as a whole.

Financial incentives for people to drive cars which are more fuel-efficient.

Eco-labelling of products so that consumers are informed about how goods are produced.

Improving the road network in the west of the province in conjunction with improved public transport.

Improving mobility for elderly, disabled and isolated people, so encouraging health and welfare in the community.


Alliance has never been inward-looking. We live in a world where countries are increasingly dependent on each other. Our economy, our trade and our security depend on many external factors. Alliance believes it is essential for Northern Ireland to play its full role through our participation in:

The Council of Ministers - where we will co-operate on tourism, the environment, the fight against crime, agriculture and transport.

The British-Irish Council - where we will work with the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies, as well as the Government of the Republic of Ireland, on eliminating pollution of the Irish Sea, reviewing fisheries policy, and improving transport between the different regions of the isles.

The European Union - Northern Ireland's distinctive voice should be heard on issues like our Structural Fund assistance, animal health and monetary union. Alliance will insist that a Northern Ireland Minister attends Council of Ministers meetings where Northern Ireland's interests are at stake. We will capitalise on the Northern Ireland Centre in Europe to lobby on issues affecting the province.

Alliance believes the question of European Monetary Union cannot be ignored. The Maastricht criteria must be met and complied with by all Member States joining the EMU, but Alliance firmly believes the UK must clarify its position on the EMU and join at the earliest opportunity. Northern Ireland may lose out if the Republic of Ireland joins the EMU and the United Kingdom does not.

In foreign affairs, Northern Ireland will, of course, continue to be represented by the United Kingdom Government. Alliance supports strengthening the work of international cooperation through such organisations as the European Union, the Commonwealth, NATO and the United Nations and through measures to protect the global environment.

Alliance believes the Assembly must harness links with the USA, Canada and Australia to promote investment in the province and develop an enterprise culture. These countries have strongly supported the peace process, encouraging investment in the province and giving money to the International Fund for Ireland which has helped regenerate many run-down and deprived areas.

Alliance also shares the growing concern on the remission of Third World debt, child and forced labour and fairer, free trade for developing countries. Alliance will press for the United Kingdom's overseas aid to be targeted to where it is most needed, subject to the respect for human rights in recipient countries. Where possible, and appropriate, Alliance will encourage the sharing of skills and expertise by our citizens with developing countries.

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