The Alliance Party was formed in April 1970 as a staunchly non-sectarian unionist party.
It sought to attract those Catholics who were happy for Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom and unionists prepared to meet the political demands of the nationalist community.
Alliance received an early boost to its confidence in 1972 when three Stormont MPs - two unionists and one nationalist - joined the party. It also attracted members from the moribund Northern Ireland Labour Party.
But its centre-ground position left it exposed to politically polarising events in the province, such as the 1981 hunger strikes.
In the 1996 forum and 1998 assembly elections, the party returned a disappointing 6.5% of the vote. In the 2005 British general election, its share of the poll slumped further to