Northern Ireland

Alliance Party targets two seats in general election

Naomi Long
Image caption Naomi Long said Alliance could have a real say in delivering what the party's manifesto promises

The Alliance Party has a "real chance" of securing two seats in next week's general election, its leader has said.

Naomi Long made the claim as she launched the party manifesto.

"Alliance has a real chance to be successful at this election in both East and South Belfast," she said.

"The party was only defeated in East Belfast at the last election thanks to a five-party pact, while we were just 700 votes behind in South Belfast at the most recent poll."

Naomi Long won the East Belfast seat in 2010 when she took it off the DUP's Peter Robinson.

She held the seat until the 2015 general election when she lost out to Gavin Robinson.

'Positive, progressive and pro-European'

The Alliance leader launched the 37-page manifesto in front of candidates, party supporters and candidates at the CIYMS sports complex in east Belfast.

"By electing two MPs, Alliance can have a real say in delivering what this manifesto promises - positive, progressive and pro-European politics," she said.

The manifesto focuses on Brexit and the party says there must be a deal to "recognise the special circumstances in Northern Ireland".

Alliance says a special deal would include participation within the Single Market and the Customs Union.

Image caption The manifesto focuses on Brexit and includes commitments on Stormont, the economy, justice, welfare and the environment

The document says the party will argue for a fresh referendum so the public can "choose between the final deal and remaining in the European Union".

It says there must be legislation to enact any of the outcomes following Brexit.

Questioned by journalists about the prospect of a referendum on a united Ireland, Mrs Long dismissed the idea.

"It would be reckless to have a border poll at the moment," she said.

The Alliance manifesto also includes a series of commitments on Stormont, the economy, justice, welfare and the environment.

Mrs Long said her party's plans were about "ending deadlock, achieving open government, creating jobs and services, and having progressive politics".

The party says it wants to see the assembly restored and an end to what it calls "the abuse" of the petition of concern"

Image caption The manifesto was launched in east Belfast on Wednesday

The manifesto document - entitled Change Direction - also calls on all parties to publish "large political donations" they receive, which Alliance says it does voluntarily.

The manifesto also advocates reforming the electoral system with voting from the age of 16; the party also says it will champion civil marriage for same-sex couples.

The party says it will oppose any repeal of the Human Rights Act, and will work with the Northern Ireland Executive so that cuts to school budgets can be reversed.