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Wednesday, May 20, 1998 Published at 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK


Profile - John Alderdice

Alliance leader Lord Alderdice wants support from both sides of the community

By BBC News online's Gary Duffy

As leader of the non-sectarian Alliance Party, Lord Alderdice must deal with a challenge faced by all his predecessors - how to retain the support of voters from both sides of the community.

While he produced the party's best-ever showing in a contest for a Westminster seat, he was never elected as an MP and was later given a peerage.

He became leader of the Alliance Party in 1987 at the age of 32. The son of a Presbyterian minister, he is a consultant psychiatrist.

Many of the central elements of the Good Friday Agreement, such as a local assembly with shared responsibility between the two communities, have been Alliance policy for years.

Lord Alderdice has argued that such a deal contains all the necessary compromises to ensure the majority of people in Ireland, north and south, can support the deal.

He has repeatedly warned that young people were being alienated from the political process in Northern Ireland by politicians who continued to maintain the attitude of "not an inch".

But having achieved much of what his party wanted in a compromise deal, Lord Alderdice must now address fundamental questions about where the party goes from here.

In his professional capacity he has said that psychiatrists in Northern Ireland were seeing people in their 20s and 30s who could not suppress the horrors of growing up through the violence of the early years of the troubles.

At Westminster he has developed a close working relationship with the Liberal Democrats, and with the Progressive Democrats in the Irish Republic.

When the IRA called a ceasefire in 1994, Lord Alderdice showed a willingness to enter into discussions with Sinn Fein at a time when many in the unionist community still regarded that as unacceptable.



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Key events since the Good Friday Agreement

Splinter groups threaten peace

Punishment beatings: A grip of fear

LVF link to Red Hand terrorists

The long search for peace

Two centuries of tradition

Inside the Orange Order

Continuity IRA - the struggle goes on?

Northern Ireland facts and figures

A fond farewell to Northern Ireland

The Good Friday Agreement in full