Blair, who is openly gay, is a member of the alliance party, will become MLA for South Antrim following a selection meeting and vote on Tuesday evening which saw him beat his challenger former Belfast mayor Nuala McAllister.
John Blair selected as new Alliance South Antrim MLA.
— Alliance Party (@allianceparty) June 27, 2018
Blair will resign his seat on the council to take up the seat held by Ford since 1998. Blair paid tribute to the contribution made to Northern Irish politics by Ford who served as leader of The Alliance Party until he handed over the reigns to Naomi Long in 2016. He also served as minister for Justice from 2010 to 2016.
“His leadership and vision has helped grow the party both in the constituency and wider,” Blair said “I will be looking to build on my previous work as councilor and provide a strong Alliance voice for local people, here in South Antrim and also in the Assembly. We are a growing party and we are already hitting the ground running ahead here of next year’s council elections.
“Since deciding to run for the MLA seat, I have received support and encouragement from right across the community, showing the progressive and positive alternative Alliance represents.”
The Northern Assembly operates under a co-option system which allows political parties to nominate replacements if a member intends to step down without having to go through a by-election. The measure was introduced because a by-election could alter the party political balance in a six-member constituency
Northern Ireland’s devolved government collapsed amidst the usual rancor in 2017. Since then, repeated attempts have been made to get the institutions back up and running. The issue of marriage equality has been a major stumbling block – with The DUP vowing to block any attempts to introduce it. Northern Ireland remains the only country in The United Kingdom where gay marriage is illegal.
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