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Alderdice accepts Lib Dem peerage in House of Lords

IN A move of major political significance for his party, the Alliance leader, Dr John Alderdice, has accepted a nomination from…

IN A move of major political significance for his party, the Alliance leader, Dr John Alderdice, has accepted a nomination from the Liberal Democrats to a peerage in the House of Lords.

Dr Alderdice (41), who has been leader of Alliance since 1987, will be one of two Lib Dem nominees as working life peers, an unsalaried position and a non hereditary title.

He will continue to head Alliance and lead its delegations in the Northern Ireland Forum and the multi party talks process but, while retaining his peerage, will be precluded from standing in the Westminster elections for a seat in the House of Commons.

Dr Alderdice said yesterday that the nomination would provide a parliamentary platform for the Alliance Party "which has been denied to us and our supporters for 25 years because of an unfair electoral system".

It would give him the chance of a wider platform from which to work for a fair and honourable settlement to the problems in Northern Ireland, he added.

Alliance is one of Northern Ireland's main political parties and has given priority to attracting support from both sides of the community. It commands about 10 per cent of the overall vote, but in the absence of proportional representation it has consistently failed to gain a Westminster seat.

Based on electoral figures dating back to 1979, if proportional representation by single transferable vote was in place, Alliance would have won two seats in each of the four general elections. In his constituency of East Belfast in the 1992 Westminster election, Dr Alderdice got 10,650 votes, coming second to Mr Peter Robinson of the DUP, who took the seat" with 18,437 votes.

An Alliance spokesman said Dr Alderdice would not be joining the Liberal Democrat party and will continue as leader of Alliance with complete freedom to speak as such on Northern Ireland issues.

However, on wider UK and European issues, he will be working alongside his fellow Liberal Democrat peers and will take the Liberal Democrat whip on these issues.