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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 15:34 GMT
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland

The Alliance Party is the main non-sectarian party of Northern Ireland.

There are both Protestants and Catholics among its members and supporters.

It has sometimes been described as a soft unionist party because it believes Northern Ireland should stay in the United Kingdom until its people decide otherwise.

The Alliance Party took part in the peace talks and supports the Good Friday Agreement, having campaigned for a "yes" vote in the 1998 referendum.

Pro-Agreement strategy

Sean Neeson: Alliance Party leader
Sean Neeson: Alliance Party leader
Sean Neeson became leader in 1998 when Lord John Alderdice was made speaker of the assembly.

As well as its six members of the assembly, the party has a number of local councillors.

However, it has never won a seat in Westminster since its foundation in 1970.

The Alliance Party is not contesting every seat in the general election under a strategy to see as many pro-Agreement candidates elected as possible.

Sister party

In the long-term it wants the assembly strengthened and given a greater role in Northern Ireland's governance.

Lord John Alderdice
Lord Alderdice: speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly
In particular it would like to see it given tax-raising powers and the ability to pass primary legislation.

The Alliance would also like to see a new justice department put in charge of policing and the judiciary in Northern Ireland.

It has twice held the Lord Mayoralty of Belfast - most recently in 1998 when Lord Alderdice's brother, David held the post.

The Alliance's sister party in Britain is the Liberal Democrats.

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