Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Tuesday, 12 May 2009 14:37 UK

Profile: Ian Parsley

By Mark Devenport
BBC NI political editor

Ian Parsley
Alliance candidate Ian Parsley

If any of the debates in this campaign descend into disorder you can rely on Alliance candidate Ian Parsley to blow the whistle on dissent.

Mr Parsley, 32, is well used to handing out red and yellow cards.

He is a qualified soccer referee who used to oversee matches in the Down Winter League. But he gave it up because of all the after-match paperwork.

Last time around, Alliance did not stand for Europe, instead backing an independent candidate, John Gilliland.

In the short term the tactic worked, taking the centre ground vote up from just over 2% in 1999 to more than 6%.

But in the longer term it has left Ian Parsley having to explain why a party which didn't think it could succeed under its own steam in 2004 now thinking it can mount a credible challenge.

Mr Parsley's answer is that Alliance is stronger now than five years ago and that their seven MLAs, who claim to be the effective opposition at Stormont, have won them new-found respect.

European Parliament building in Strasbourg
Most plenary sessions of parliament are held in Strasbourg

Once this election is over, Alliance may no longer be in opposition, as they are tipped to take a new Ministry of Justice, but Mr Parsley says that on the doorsteps he hasn't experienced any negativity about this - instead he claims voters think Alliance is the party to trust with the sensitive portfolio.

Currently the Deputy Mayor of North Down Council, Ian Parsley has crossed swords with Alban Maginness over the SDLP candidate's claim that he is the only pro-European candidate in the race.

Mr Parsley favours some changes to the Lisbon treaty but would count himself as in favour of the European project.

Multi-lingual

At Stormont, Alliance is in the same united community group as the Greens. However, the two parties haven't united behind one candidate when it comes to Europe.

If he were to get to the European parliament, Ian Parsley would feel at home in its multi-lingual environment.

He studied German linguistics at university, and also speaks Spanish and French. Through his linguistics background he also has a fair degree of expertise in Ulster Scots.

Born in Yorkshire, he was raised in Holywood, County Down.

He runs his own public relations firm which has represented clients at home and abroad. In Poland he worked on publicity about election campaigns.

And yes, his name differs from that of Northern Ireland's most famous politician by just one letter.

He has a sense of humour - on April Fools day he put out a press release supporting Australia's entry to the European Union - but you can deduce from that fixed smile on his face that he has heard the old Parsley/Paisley joke once too often.



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