Northern Ireland Election 2016

Election profile: David Ford, Alliance leader

David Ford Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption David Ford has led the cross-community Alliance Party since 2011

David Ford has led the cross-community Alliance Party since 2001 and is the longest serving leader of the party.

He took on the leadership after Sean Neeson resigned in the face of poor election results.

Mr Ford, a former social worker, has been Northern Ireland's justice minister since April 2010 - the first local minister in that role in nearly 40 years.

Mr Ford has represented South Antrim as an MLA since 1998. He was also a member of Antrim Borough Council.

Born in Kent, with a Welsh father and a mother from Northern Ireland, he grew up in England, but spent summer holidays on his uncle's farm in Gortin, County Tyrone.

He moved to Northern Ireland permanently in 1969 and studied economics at Queen's University in Belfast.

He joined Alliance at university and spent a year as a volunteer at the ecumenical centre, Corrymeela.

Mr Ford's entry into full-time politics was in 1990 when he became Alliance's general secretary.

'Pantomine horse'

He has campaigned for a better railway network and has a strong interest in agricultural and environmental affairs.

When the then Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble lost his assembly majority in 2001, Mr Ford redesignated as a unionist with two colleagues for 22 minutes.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Mr Ford has also been Northern Ireland's justice minister since 2010

It helped pave the way for Mr Trimble get re-elected as first minister of Northern Ireland.

At the time, Mr Ford, a father-of-four said he would never again allow himself to be what he described as the "back-end of a pantomime horse".

In February, MLAs voted against a proposed change to Northern Ireland's abortion legislation brought forward by Mr Ford.

The change would have legalised abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

His party also voted to endorse gay marriage in 2012.

Amid the ensuing controversy, Mr Ford stepped aside temporarily as an elder at his Presbyterian church in County Antrim.

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