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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 12:40 GMT
Endgame for Close after 33 years
Seamus Close
Seamus Close has been in politics since the 1970s
A senior member of Northern Ireland's cross-community Alliance Party has announced he is retiring from politics.

Seamus Close, 59, a former Alliance deputy leader, has been in politics for 33 years and fought 20 elections.

Mr Close said that he would serve out his present term, but with an election announcement expected, it was the right time for him to signal his intentions.

"I want to live the rest of my life freed from the daily pressures and demands of elected politics," he said.

He told Radio Ulster's Talkback programme that when John Reid suspended the assembly in 2002 he "undid the hard work of many".

"He copped out rather then face up to the reality of dealing with those who were in the wrong," he said.

'Sticking plaster'

He said that he could not do his job because the secretary of state had "wrecked" it and said using a "sticking plaster" to get the DUP and Sinn Fein to head an executive would not work.

"Trimble and Mallon were decent guys and but they couldn't agree and that will be even worse with Sinn Fein and the DUP," he said.

"It's not sustainable and the people of Northern Ireland are going to once more be put through the mill.

"In my heart I know that this is not going to work - it's Alice in Wonderland politics - a lot of fudging to produce what?"

He said the assembly had been talked about as a way to replace quangos, but that if the secretary of state appointed its first and deputy first minister then that is what it would have become.

Mr Close slammed the creation of seven super-councils and said that the government had ignored the recommendations of local government practitioners.

"I remember how it was in 1982 with South Antrim and it did not have a local feel with the extremes of the constituency," he added.

Citing being mayor of Lisburn in 1993 as one of the highlights of his political career he said not being elected party leader in 1986 was one of the low points.

He said that the founder of the Alliance Party, Oliver Napier, was, and remains, his greatest political influence.

When asked if he may be elevated to a seat in the House of Lords Mr Close said: "I haven't been asked so I can't say yes and I can't say no."

The Lagan Valley assembly member was first elected to Lisburn Borough Council in 1973.

Civil union row

He quit as deputy leader in 2001 over the party's decision to stand aside in some areas in favour of other pro-Agreement candidates in the general election.

In July 2005, Mr Close proposed that the Lisburn City Council deny gay couples access to the council's designated wedding facility if they were seeking a civil partnership under the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

The council adopted the policy, to the annoyance of many gay campaigners who said it was discriminatory.

This also ran against Alliance policy, which had been strongly supportive of the introduction of civil partnership laws, and he was publicly criticised by other senior party members.

At the time Mr Close explained the motion proposed that same-sex civil partnership registration should "be not afforded the same recognition" as a civil marriage ceremony.

He said such unions would take place in the registrar's office instead of the Cherry Room.

Seamus Close speaks to Talkback's David Dunseith

Gay unions banned in wedding room
04 Jul 05 |  Northern Ireland
'More urgency' needed in review
10 Feb 04 |  Northern Ireland

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