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Last Updated: Friday, 16 February 2007, 18:47 GMT
Profile: David Ford
By Jim Fitzpatrick
The Politics Show

Alliance Party leader David Ford is known as a straight political operator.

He has led his party during difficult times as the political dynamic of bringing the DUP and Sinn Fein together has proved difficult terrain for the centre ground party.

He took on the leadership in 2001 after Sean Neeson, who succeeded Lord Alderdice, resigned in the face of poor election results.

David Ford
David Ford is known as a serious political thinker

He managed to steady nerves and the party a pretty decent outing at the assembly elections in 2003 - saving all six of its assembly seats. On his home turf Mr Ford fought off a challenge from Sinn Fein's Martin Meehan.

This time around he faces Mitchel McLaughlin - a sign that Sinn Fein believes that there's a seat in South Antrim with their name on it.

David Ford will be working hard to stay ahead of Sinn Fein, and attract crucial transfers.

He saved the former executive in 2001 by re-designating as a unionist with two colleagues for 22 minutes.

In fact, he is probably the only main party leader who is not assured of his seat.

Despite his no-nonsense approach to politics, David Ford has had a habit of getting caught up in political theatre.

He saved the former executive in 2001 by re-designating as a unionist with two colleagues for 22 minutes.

At the time he said he would never again allow himself to be the "back-end of a pantomime horse".

This allowed Bob McCartney to later refer to him as a "self-confessed horse's ass".

More recently he became embroiled in the ongoing police investigation into "loans for peerages" when he revealed that David Trimble had once offered him the option of a peerage, which he declined.

And it was David Ford who was on his feet in the Stormont denouncing the "farcical" proceedings, whenever Michael Stone stormed into Parliament Buildings and mayhem ensued.

Queen's University
Mr Ford studied economics at Queen's University

But despite this inadvertant knack for comedy, he is recognised as a serious political thinker.

The government has adopted a number of Alliance proposals in recent years and the prime minister's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, is known to have been impressed.

He was born on 56 years ago in Kent. With a Welsh father and Northern Irish mother he grew up and was educated in England, but spent summer holidays on his uncle's farm in Gortin, County Tyrone.

Ironically he moved to Northern Ireland permanently in 1969, just as the Troubles began.

He studied economics at Queen's.

His political sympathies were clear from the start - he joined Alliance at university and spent a year as a voluneer at the ecumenical centre, Corrymeela, before starting work as a social worker in 1973.

But it wasn't until 1990 that he entered full-time politics as the party's general secretary.

He is married to Anne, has four grown up children and lives in rural County Antrim. He is an elder in the Presbyterian Church.


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