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Stephen Farry MLA (born 22 April 1971) is an Alliance Party of Northern Ireland politician from Newtownards.

Stephen Farry

Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for North Down
Assumed office
7 March 2007
Preceded byEileen Bell
Minister for Employment and Learning
In office
5 May 2011 – 6 May 2016
First MinisterPeter Robinson
Arlene Foster
deputy First MinisterMartin McGuinness
John O'Dowd (Acting)
Preceded byDanny Kennedy
Succeeded byabolished
Personal details
Born (1971-04-22) 22 April 1971 (age 48)
Newtownards, Northern Ireland
Political partyAlliance
Alma materQueen's University, Belfast

He has been a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for North Down since 2007, and was Minister for Employment and Learning in the Northern Ireland Executive until the post was abolished in 2016.


Early careerEdit

Farry graduated from Queen's University, Belfast in 1992 with a BSSc in Politics and a PhD in International Relations in 2000. He was elected to the Assembly in the 2007 election for North Down, having first been elected to North Down Borough Council in 1993. In 1996, he was an unsuccessful candidate in the Northern Ireland Forum election in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.[1]

He is a former General Secretary of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. He was appointed an International Peace Scholar by the US Institute of Peace in 2005. In 2007, he became Mayor of North Down.

Political careerEdit

Minister for Employment & LearningEdit

Farry held his North Down seat in the 2011 Assembly election, and was subsequently appointed Minister for Employment and Learning in the 4th Northern Ireland Executive.[2]

In September 2011, Farry announced a freeze on tuition fees in Northern Ireland, with fees only subject to an inflationary rise.[3]

Following the decision by Alliance Party councillors to vote in favour of restricting the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall to 17 specific days throughout the year in December 2012, Farry's constituency office in Bangor was the subject of an attempted arson attack.[4]

In February 2013, he launched a review of apprenticeships and youth training, aiming to build a "gold standard" system capable of "rebalancing of the local economy and meeting the specific needs of business for a highly-skilled workforce".[5] The 32 proposals launched by the department in June 2014 included incentives for businesses, and were welcomed by the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses and NUS-USI.[6][7]

Following the 2016 elections, Farry had been tipped by The Irish News to succeed David Ford as Minister of Justice.[8] However, with the Alliance Party opting to enter opposition, he returned to the backbench.[9] He subsequently assumed positions on the Stormont Committee for the Economy and Business Committee, remaining on these until the collapse of the Assembly in February 2017.[10]

Deputy Leader of the Alliance PartyEdit

Following the resignation of David Ford as Alliance leader on 5 October 2016, Farry was named by The Irish Times as a potential leadership contender alongside Naomi Long.[11] However, he did not stand as a leadership candidate and was later elected unopposed as Deputy Leader of the party.[12][13]

In the 2017 Assembly election, Farry increased his share of first-preference votes in North Down to 7,014 (18.6%) and was re-elected on the first count. He currently serves as Alliance's Brexit spokesperson and has strongly advocated for a People's Vote, argued against a no-deal Brexit and maintains that the Northern Ireland backstop must be part of any Withdrawal Agreement should the UK leave the European Union.[14]


  1. ^ Northern Ireland elections
  2. ^ Keenan, Dan. "Stormont Assembly votes in new team of Ministers". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  3. ^ "NI university tuition fees frozen". BBC News. 8 September 2011. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  4. ^ McDonald, Henry (6 December 2012). "Alliance minister accuses loyalist attackers of endangering child's life". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  5. ^ "Minister reviewing apprenticeships". BBC News. 11 February 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  6. ^ "Review of NI training and skills". BBC News. 13 January 2014. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  7. ^ "Apprenticeships here 'could be the envy of the world'". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  8. ^ "Stephen Farry earmarked by Alliance for justice portfolio". The Irish News.
  9. ^ Moriarty, Gerry. "Battle looms for NI justice post as Alliance pulls out of executive". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  10. ^ "Dr Stephen Farry Biography". Northern Ireland Assembly.
  11. ^ Moriarty, Gerry. "David Ford to step down as leader of North's Alliance Party". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  12. ^ "Naomi Long becomes new Alliance leader". BBC News. 26 October 2016. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  13. ^ "Farry is new deputy leader of Alliance". BBC News. 3 December 2016. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  14. ^ "Stephen Farry: A People's Vote can help dig us out of hole Brexit has now become". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Richard Good
General Secretary of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
Position abolished
Title next held by
Gerry Lynch
Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Eileen Bell
MLA for North Down
Civic offices
Preceded by
Alan Leslie
Mayor of North Down
Succeeded by
Leslie Cree
Political offices
Preceded by
Danny Kennedy
Minister for Employment and Learning
Position abolished