LORD John Alderdice
As Leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland for eleven years, John Alderdice participated in all the talks and key political events in Northern Ireland from his election in October 1987 onwards. He played a significant role in the development of the Irish Peace Process and the negotiation of the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. He then stepped down as Alliance Party Leader and was appointed the first Speaker of the new Northern Ireland Assembly responsible for the establishment and development of the new legislature. This involved not only the creation and implementation of all the new procedures, but also ensuring the cooperation of the members of the various political parties on all the practical aspects of creating the new institution. Some of these new Members of the Legislative Assembly had been involved in political violence and many had refused to even sit in the same room prior to their election to the Assembly, but Lord Alderdice found ways of building cooperation across these deep divisions.
He retired as Speaker and as a Member of the Legislative Assembly in 2004 and was appointed to the four-man Independent Monitoring Commission tasked by the British and Irish Governments with closing down terrorist operations and overseeing security normalization in Ireland. Subsequently, in 2015, he was appointed to a three-person panel by the First, Deputy First and Justice Ministers of Northern Ireland to report on ways to deal with the remaining paramilitaries.
Formerly a Vice-President of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party and from 2005 to 2009 President of Liberal International (the world-wide network of more than 100 liberal political parties) he continues his involvement in international liberalism as a Présidente d’Honneur of Liberal International and a member of its ruling Bureau.
Lord Alderdice had been appointed by Her Majesty, The Queen to sit in the House of Lords in 1996 and was at that time one of the youngest people ever appointed to a Life Peerage. He was from 2010 to 2014 Chairman of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords during the Conservative/Liberal Coalition Government and has recently been particularly active in speaking out on how the challenges of Brexit for Northern Ireland may be addressed.
After qualifying as a Medical Doctor in 1978 he studied psychiatry and psychoanalysis and was for many years from 1988 onwards a Consultant Psychiatrist and Senior Lecturer in Psychotherapy at Queen’s University Belfast, where he established the Centre for Psychotherapy. Later he was also a Visiting Professor in the School of Medicine, and Joint Chair of the Critical Incidents Analysis Group at the University of Virginia and is currently a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry of the School of Medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, USA.
In recent years Lord Alderdice has increasingly focussed on his academic and practical involvement in understanding and addressing situations of violent political conflict in various other parts of the world. He is a Senior Research Fellow at Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford and Founding Director of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict there. He has also recently been appointed to a Senior Research Fellowship at St Benet’s Hall in Oxford where he is developing work on Faith, Leadership and Inter-religious Dialogue. Lord Alderdice has research appointments with the Department of Politics and International Relations and the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnology in Oxford and is the founding Chairman of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building in Belfast.
Lord Alderdice speaks, lectures and consults around the world on terrorism, violent political conflict and the psychology of religious fundamentalism. He also takes an interest in conflicts between First Nation people and majority populations in various parts of the world.
He has been recognized with many national and international prizes, fellowships and awards including the John F Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award and the W Averell Harriman Democracy Award in the USA; the Award of the International Psychoanalytic Association for Extraordinarily Meritorious Service to Psychoanalysis; the Ettore Majorana Erice Prize of the World Federation of Scientists, for the application of Science to the cause of Peace; the Liberal International ‘Prize for Freedom’; and Honorary Doctorates from the University of East London, the Robert Gordon University in Scotland, the Open University (UK), Queen’s University at Kingston in Canada, the American University in Bogota, Colombia, and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
Lord Alderdice lives in London, in Oxfordshire and in France with his wife Joan, and they have three children, all married with families of their own in various parts of England and Scotland.