Last week Cllr Alan Harbinson (North Down) left the Alliance Party over the issue of Gay marriage…..he is against it. The surprising thing about his resignation……and even possible defection to DUP is that he has only been on the Council for eight months having been a co-opted replacement for Cllr Tony Hill who died.
As expected…the Alliance Party “leader” on North Down Council has called on his erstwhile Party colleague to resign. Of course that is a ritual that all parties go thru when someone leaves. Hypocritically they never call for elected representatives to resign if they “heroically” defect TO them.
Of course I take the point that Harbinson was a co-option. Nobody actually elected him. But surely Andy Muir must take some blame for it was Muir and his Alliance candidates who put Harbinson’s name forward. For Muir to claim that Harbinson has “no moral authority” is just plain pompous stupidity.
But this actually set me thinking. It is claimed that Alliance are not tribal and this is often wrongly interpreted as the Alliance Party being non-religious. In fact it has a high ratio of practising people of Faith.
Certainly founding member Oliver Napier was Catholic. Bob Cooper was I believe a practising Presbyterian but his wife Patricia is Catholic and Basil Glass, the third highest ranking member in the original Assembly Party was a practising Methodist.
Things are not that much different now. David Ford, Stewart Dickson, Trevor Lunn and Naomi Long are all known to be practising and committed persons of Faith, all I believe Presbyterian and Kieran McCarthy is known to be a practising Catholic. Anna Lo is a known Daoist. I cannot speak for Chris Lyttle, Judith Cochrane and Stephen Farry but I would be surprised if they were all athiests and agnostics.
It is of course true that some Alliance Party members will be passive Christians and other faiths……….and athiests and agnostics but I wonder if it is a generational thing. Certainly on discussion boards I have noticed that much of the “new politics” messages (such as Alliance advocates) is actually advanced by people who hold religion in contempt.
To my way of thinking “fundamental athiesm” can be as nasty as “fundamental Protestantism” or “fundamental Catholicism”. They all lack Tolerance.
I think there is a danger for the Alliance Party that younger folks might be inclined to label Religion as “mumbo jumbo” and take an “I am to clever to believe in God” attitude. This might be a further example of the Alliance Party straying from its honourable foundations.
While its high profile supporters in the Media and Tinternet triumph Alliance’s fairly limited successes, there is a “Story” building up around the Party. It has moved from its 1970 position of “liberal unionist” to “agnostic” on the Constitution but will likely have to tack back to “liberal unionism” if it sees the wind blowing that way (DUP Outreach will affect Alliance Party voters long before it will affect nationalist voters). Also a Party that catered for ex-Norn Iron Labour voters and avowedly “Liberal Party” types as well as “Conservative” supporters will be moving to the Right under the influence of Paula Bradshaw and Harry Hamilton (both ex UUP) and serial defector Ian Parsley.
And of course that will all alienate nationalists who have been inclined to look on Alliance Party favourably.
Certainly Alliance Party do best when they are under the radar and slither along the ground on their bellies…..(hmm too harsh?). They arent really at their best when a light is shone on them.