22/06/2001

CLOSE RESIGNS AS ALLIANCE PARTY DEPUTY LEADER

FOLLOWING a series of disagreements within the Alliance Party Northern Ireland leadership, Seamus Close has resigned from his position as the party’s deputy leader.

Mr Close said: “Recently, I have disagree with several decisions in the Alliance Party, including that of withdrawing from North Down during the General Election. I took a principled stand on the issue, as I believe this has the potential to damage the party electorally.”

Stressing that there was neither friction nor any animosity between him and part leader Sean Neeson, Mr close said that he had spent 10 years as Deputy Leader and it was now time for a change.

Mr Close, who will continue as a member of the Alliance Party, sits on Lisburn Council, and represents Lagan Valley in the Assembly, said that he still believed in the Alliance philosophy as the way forward.

Alliance Party leader Sean Neeson said that he was saddened and disappointed by Mr Close’s decision to stand down as the party’s deputy leader.

Mr Neeson said: “The decision that we took in North Down was a very difficult one, but one that was taken after considerable internal consultation and with the best interest of Alliance and Northern Ireland at heart. It was necessary for us to do all that was possible to protect the Agreement from its opponents.”

Mr Neeson wished his colleague well in the future.

The appointment of Mr Close’s successor is expected within the next few weeks. (SP)

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