McCann meets….Naomi Long MP #AP2014

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On Saturday afternoon I caught up with the MP for East Belfast and Deputy Leader of the Alliance party, Naomi Long. We discussed a range of issues from her background growing up in East Belfast to her future as an MP and a possible leader of the Alliance party. The full audio of the interview is at the bottom of the post but here are some noteworthy quotes that I found interesting.

I began by asking her about how much growing up in East Belfast in a Unionist family influenced her politics;

Growing up in that place really did shape who I am today but it didn’t shape me in the way that people might have expected. I grew up in a working class loyalist community that’s where my roots are and where my family are from and I’m proud of that that’s my heritage and I don’t deny it or hide it or shy away from it. And in fact it’s been abused against me where people try to say well I must be a Unionist and that’s what I am saying I’m not going to be labelled.

I then pressed on to ask Naomi about communal tensions in East Belfast;

There is no doubt there is mistrust, there is no doubt that there is suspicion that they’re getting something that we are not, do you know what that is? How many people in that area have been able to go into Short Strand and see the same problems? I have, I’ve been there, I have been on the lower Newtownards Road, I have seen people with their housing problems, with their benefits problems, I have seen the people with their anti-social behaviour problems.

Long pointed out that in some respects good cross community work is going on at interfaces led by churches and other community groups that are helping to ease tensions within the community but she believes that ultimately the only long term solution to the problems facing East Belfast is developing more shared solutions to remove seeds of doubt that people within these communities have about one another.

I wondered though who did she think was to blame for tensions within the community?

There is no political leadership around it, people inflame tensions, they seek out ways to try and play up the orange and green card all the time, their primary interest is looking over their shoulder to the rump of their own constituency and that is what controls their decisions and that’s what is wrong. Because it’s not about going down and supporting people in difficult times, it’s about articulating these poisonous views because people who believe that those on the other side of the interface are better off because personal experience, they believe it because they are told it. And they are told it by their political leader’s day in and day out. If you keep telling people that they’re losers and the other lot are winners or vice versa, you are stoking up tensions for the future.

We then moved on to talk about the attacks on Alliance party offices in the aftermath of the flags protests; Long told me about the pride she had in her staff for getting on with the job despite the difficulties but also said that she felt angry that people who needed the help of the Alliance party couldn’t get it, but she believes that the failure of other politicians to step forward and say that it was wrong was also made her angry.

But, that was enough of the past, what about her future? I posed the question to her that she is likely to lose her seat at the next election and what if it becomes a nasty campaign?

Well I think the flag protest has prepared me for anything and it doesn’t get much more brutal than that and I’m not broken yet. If people think that by turning it into a nasty campaign or a brutal campaign it will damage me I think they’re wrong but secondly I don’t think the public like nasty campaigns, I ran purely positive campaign, I could’ve run a nasty campaign in the last election there was plenty of material around for me to exploit and I didn’t, because it’s not my style and it’s not who I am…and as far as commentators are concerned, there were no commentators Alex Kane or anybody else who predicted my win in 2010 and if we were sitting this far out from the 2010 election they would’ve all predict not just that I would’ve won but that I would’ve been third. So, I take lightly what commentators say because they’re not with me on the doors in East Belfast…and do you know what if I’m not elected it’s not the end of the world, not for me and not for anybody else.

I wondered what she thought about her likely opponent, Gavin Robinson;

When I’ve met him he seemed reasonable and all the rest, but then I see another side to him. I saw him the middle of the leafleting campaign around the flags stuff. I have seen his behaviour during that when he didn’t really step forward and say what he should’ve said, we have seen him rally round Ruth Patterson and grinning in the background of the photograph when she had just admitted that she had done something that was really wrong that kind of give a lie to the idea that in some way there is a moderate DUP. I don’t think there is, I think when the mask slips the DUP are the DUP and I don’t really think it’s about personalities.

Concluding we talked about the possibility of her leading the Alliance party at some point in the future which naturally she said that she had no intention of seeking the leadership and that personal ambition was ‘not on her radar.’

Overall, I found Naomi a really interesting person to chat with and make no mistake she intends to fight to keep that seat-can she hold it? I don’t know but she won’t go down easily.

Full audio:

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  • http://whereareyoufrancishutcheson.wordpress.com martyntodd

    Naomi Long, in all her actions as well as in all her words, works for everyone, respects people of all religions and none and accepts people of all different sexual orientations.

    Gavin Robinson, by being a member of the Orange Order can never be seen to respect people of the Catholic faith and, by being a member of the DUP rejects equal marriage and equal rights for gay people.

    Naomi is the one to trust with your children’s future.

  • stewart1

    Seem to recall Gavin Robinson saying on a TV interview that he’d never been in the short strand.

  • Politico68

    She really is a trooper. One of the most fair minded and balanced politicians in Ireland. I hope the people of East Belfast appreciate what a terrific representative they have. The council elections in may will give us a picture of where Alliance support is at the moment.

  • SDLP supporter

    A good and highly intelligent woman and a credit to herself, her family and her party.

  • Red Lion

    Naomi is a very stong person and politician.

    I haven’t heard the interviewyet but hope it also focuses on what she actually does at Westminster when there and how her day goes in there, after all she is a Westminster politician

  • Gopher

    Problem is East Belfast took the leap and no one leaped with them in fact quite the contrary so it is unfortunate to be losing such a good MP like Naomi in 2015. I hear that sentimental Rommel effect in conversations round East Belfast you know the wish she was one off ours. Hope she understands on election night like that last scene from the Godfather its nothing personal just business.

  • Morpheus

    “….wish she was one of ours” – gimme strength

    You do realize that she is a Unionist from East Belfast right? Do you think that magically disappeared somehow?

    And Gavin Robinson???? I knew the leaflets, the death threats, the firebombs, the protests etc were to get a DUP crony a seat/salary/pension plus expenses but Gavin Robinson? Can you see him going up Short Strand to see that the grass isn’t greener on the green side of the fence like Naomi Long did? He seems a nice guy but c’mon

  • Gopher

    Morp I cant stand the sight of the DUP, Orange Order, fleggers, UUP or Gavin bloodly Robinson. East Belfast is losing a good MP simple as that. If the Alliance party had built on the result and created confidence in themselves and hit the DUP where they hurt on social issues she would have a fighting chance next time instead they decided to invade Russia

  • Morpheus

    Way way way too premature to make that call Gopher.

    You say that you hate the DUP/OO/fleggers/UUP but you would rather see the seat be taken from someone who is still the same hardworking pro-Union MP that she was last week and given a crony who is half of the things you say you hate above?

    Twisted logic if you ask me.

  • Gopher

    Morp if nationalism had voted out just one SF MP it could even have been one of the ones nobody had heard off, East Belfast would have felt a lot better.

    With me I voted for Alliance to make this place better and defend the middle ground not put it down like a chip at a roulette wheel to take an electoral gamble with. Me I’m voting NI21 if that means a DUP candidate gets in you can blame someone who puts their X beside SF

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    I think 2010 was too unique.
    I dont like the rem ” lending a vote” , Its even more stupid than lending a fiver.
    Nobody does well out of LENDING their vote….not the SDLP in Fermanagh-South Tyrond, not Alliance in West Belfast, not UUP in several constituencies.
    Its all very well Naomi Long appealing for broader support….and duly recognising that she got votes that she would normaly get…in an emotional Victory Speech.
    But within a week, its soon forgotten.
    You might have preferred to vote UNCUF, Green, SDLP, SF but what you got was Alliance and they will make sure you know that.
    I dont live in East Belfast but certainly voting for her is not something Id ever consider.
    Just vote for the right person, whoever it is.
    Voting to keep someone out ….is a nasty thing to do.

  • Morpheus

    So you were happy to vote Alliance and ‘make things better’ as long as they stayed on ‘your side’ of the white line in the middle of the road eh?

    As I said before, Naomi Long is still the same hardworking, pro-Union MP from East Belfast that she was last week. Alliance as a party has proven that it attract both nationalist and unionists – just like any workplace in NI where people work together to achieve goals day after day after day – but are firmly committed to the GFA and the Principle of Consent. I don’t see any conflict if you truly want to ‘make things better’

    As for blaming SF voters, I have absolutely no idea how they sneaked into the conversation

  • Gopher

    Everything has an equal and opposite reaction if you vote SF you get DUP and vice versa (except if East Belfast vote Alliance you still get SF)

    Alliance did not mention to me that they were going to throw away East Belfast. I thought maybe they were going to fight for Abortion or Gay Marriage you know that kinda thing maybe cut passenger duty or get a rail halt actually at one of our airports instead I got a party that engaged in constitutional politics and not only that they were pretty crap at it which for me was unforgivable. So since I was standing on the white line I decided I’ll give N!21 a go and if they dont please me Ill vote green its called freewill.

  • Morpheus

    How do you vote Alliance and get SF???

    If you are choosing to exercise your free-will to vote NI21 for reasons like their policies on abortion, Gay marriage, passenger duty etc then fair play, no arguments here but if you were willing to vote Alliance last week and not this week just because of what Anna Lo said then your ‘middle of the road to make things’ better holds no water because what you really saying is ‘middle of the road to make things better as long as it doesn’t involve themuns’ taking you into flegger territory. And you’ve made you feelings perfectly clear on fleggers.

    I’ll say this for a third time because it’s important…Naomi Long is still the same hardworking, pro-Union MP from East Belfast that she was last week.

  • iluvni

    I’d say turning up for less than 53% of the votes at Westminster throws into doubt the claim she is a hard working MP. She’s average really.
    It appears only Shannon and Durkan do the job they were elected to do to an acceptable standard.

  • Sp12

    “Everything has an equal and opposite reaction if you vote SF you get DUP and vice versa (except if East Belfast vote Alliance you still get SF)”

    So Naomi’s shock victory in East Belfast was some sort of attempt to break away from the SF/DUP show that nationalists didn’t simultaneously and with weird powers of foresight reciprocate on?
    Nothing at all to do with Iris and the TUV vote?

  • Gopher

    You can fall out with a party because you think they are not up to the job of taking on the DUP and SF, you can fall out with a party because you believe they are disingenuous with your vote. I don’t doubt Naomi’s convictions, work ethic and her cross community efforts unfortunately due to choices (and you can debate the pros, cons and morality of those choices all day long but the end result is the same finis Naomi) by her party she won’t be doing them as an MP after 2015 whether I vote Alliance or not and as I said I won’t be I will be voting NI 21

  • Comrade Stalin

    except if East Belfast vote Alliance you still get SF

    Gopher, now you’re just talking balls. You are taking the personal opinion of Anna Lo and ascribing it to Naomi Long.

    On top of that you are exaggerating it by suggesting that someone who suggests that Ireland should be reunified is the equivalent of the political wing of a violent paramilitary organization which killed 2000 people.

    Try to make sense.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Gopher,

    You’re aware that the NI21 leadership were at the recent Fine Gael conference, right ? What were they doing there ?

  • Gopher

    I think you miss my meaning, as usual CS if only people like yourself were as passionate about defending the middle ground as they are as chasing Alliance voters perhaps you would still have my vote.

    There was a cloud over Peter in the 2010 election the good people of East Belfast did their duty and voted him out. There was another party leader who had a cloud(s) over him in the same election he won at a canter. What is the point being a Liberal when you are dealing with robotic voting?

    I have stated before I have no problems with any party I vote for dealing directly with FG or FF from the South as I believe they are made up of reasonable people unlike their Northern nationalist counterparts.

  • Morpheus

    You have no interest in the middle ground Gopher – you are only concerned with your side of the road and as such your vote won’t be missed. There is a plethora of people out there who are fed up with the current tribal set-up and are turning away from the democratic process but what the Alliance have done is show that they are now something different and personally I think it will be attractive to the electorate come election time. Why wouldn’t it?

    On one hand we have a stereotypical DUP/OO crony with nothing more than local council experience who we know will not represent everyone within the constituency equally. On the other we have a tried and tested MP from a demonstrably cross-community party but remains a talented, pro-Union,hardworking individual from East Belfast.

    I don’t understand why you continue to talk about SF – if you don’t want SF then don’t vote for them. End of story.

  • Charles_Gould

    Its quite interesting that she is not going to stand as leader of the Alliance party because a lot of people thought she might be good as next leader.

    One option for next leader is Stephen Farry. He has been a good Minister on the whole, though i was surprised he did not merge the two teacher training colleges, you would have thought that would be Alliance policy.

  • Gopher

    I know my colonial attachment to an artificial state is touching :D

  • Morpheus

    Gopher if you are pro-UK then that’s great, that’s up to you but if you are leaving Alliance because they also have ‘themuns’ within their ranks then that makes you no different to the fleggers you can’t stand the sight of.

    But at least they are honest and up front.

  • Granni Trixie

    Charles…watch this space re rationalising teacher trainng education. My understanding is that The Ministef has been trying to do so but that there is strong resistence. Incidentally, Just after I left St Mary’s College in 80s there was an opportunity to merge by the Chilvers Report but the cHurch in particular was strongly against then also.

  • Charles_Gould

    Granni

    Thanks for that. I wish him well – I think it makes such a lot of sense. It would be so frustrating if an Alliance minister could not make more progress on such a key issue.

    I have a lot of respect for Stephen Farry. I prefer him to Naomi, I like his approach.

  • Gopher

    I believe NI21 have a varied membership and don’t seem too superstitious I also believe the Greens have many shades so to speak and I won’t have a problem voting for either, they probably would have been my next stop after Alliance but for their vote on Ann Travers. Alliances inaction and later pedantic dissection of the bill by the way left me with a bitter taste in my colonial mouth truth be told. Imagine my horror at having to rely on Jim Allister and not the super heroes of impartial justice to sort it out. Initially I thought it was not invented here syndrome but now on reflection it looks like it was just not wanting to spook any nationalist horses. Now if a committed Alliance voter like myself has problems with trust you can certainly forgive DC

  • Charles_Gould

    Gopher

    I’m normally sympathetic to Alliance but I also was not impressed with their treatment of that Bill, I also got the impression that they didn’t want to vote for something because it came from Jim Allister, regardless of its merits. That may be unfair but its how I sensed it.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Gopher,

    I’m at a loss to respond to any of what you are saying which basically appears to be that you think Alliance – the entire party – is toxic because of the opinions of one representative. Your perspective doesn’t sound like one that has been arrived at based on careful thought and reasoning. To suggest that Alliance are comparable to Sinn Féin just because one person thinks there should be a united Ireland is way off the deep end.

    It sounds like you want a party that will purge anyone who suggests that NI should not be a part of the UK. Is that true ? If not then what exactly would Alliance have to do in order to regain your confidence ?

  • Son of Strongbow

    Alliance has been madly spinning that Ms Lo nailing her Irish nationalist colours to the mast is the focus of unionist complaints. Just to underline the message, and her targets, Ms Lo described those who complained about some of her comments in the Irish News as “sectarian”.

    The actual focus of the response by some to her comments was in relation to her “colonial” interpretation of unionist politics. Even Arlene Foster of the DUP pointed out that Ms Lo was more than entitled to her nationalist view (oops, there’s me labelling people again, something Alliance perhaps wants to hold the copyright on).

    The response to Ms Lo’s interview has been most interesting from within Alliance itself. Naomi Long has regaled us with her unionist antecedents (product of a hasty conference speech rewrite?).

    Although she went on to say that she would “not be defined by her background”, (that of course does not apply to us mere mortals, or else bang goes fair employment legislation and a whole raft of other measures that ‘define’ people by ‘community background’).

    Geraldine Rice broke the fluffy party consensus with her comments. However she is simply venting her angst at failing to get elected or some such.

    Now what other local political party’s support goes for character assassination for dissenters within the ranks as a first response option?

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “The actual focus of the response by some to her comments was in relation to her “colonial” interpretation of unionist politics.”

    @SoS,

    Unionist spokesmen have been all upset about the colony remark of Lo’s, pointing out that “Northern Ireland is a full part of the UK.” They should remember that legally Algeria was not a colony but a French province. Angola and Mozambique were considered to be “overseas Portugal (Portugal do ultramar).” Yet look at some of the anti-terrorist legislation that has a special status for NI so that anyone coming from NI could be subject to a different legal regime. And consider Tony Blair’s refusal to risk provoking the IRA over decommissioning by keeping IRA prisoners locked up after the organization announced that it would not decommission as it wasn’t a party to the GFA. Wasn’t Blair really saying by his actions that he regarded NI as a colony and didn’t want to risk proper, real British lives over decommissioning?

  • Gopher

    CS @ You are exceptional at attributing lines of argument to me that bear no relation to what I’m saying. I believe I was the first person on record anywhere stating Lo’s comments were a gimic a play for nationalist votes rather than pulling out her Mauser and dressing up as Constance Markievicz.

  • Greenflag

    Naomi Long is an honest and brave politician . She’s the future .Anybody in East Belfast who is genuinely concerned for the political , economc and social future of Northern Ireland and in particular at the future of the community from which Naomi hails will give her their vote.

  • Greenflag

    tmitch57,

    ”They should remember that legally Algeria was not a colony but a French province. Angola and Mozambique were considered to be “overseas Portugal (Portugal do ultramar).’

    You don’t have to go that far to make your point . Legally the USA and all of Ireland were once part of Britain’s overseas Empire .

    Eventually the law accepts political reality although blinkered imperialists be they French, Portugese or British or Russian may still hang on to their illusions of former grandeur for century or two.

    Northern Ireland is not Finchley never was and never will be ..

    Would a future British Prime Minister do a De Gaulle on Northern Ireland’s unionists /loyalists ?

    Short answer- of course . It’s just a matter of time and political circumstance .

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “You don’t have to go that far to make your point . Legally the USA and all of Ireland were once part of Britain’s overseas Empire .”

    @Greenflag,

    Actually I do. The thirteen original states were thirteen colonies. Algeria under French law was a province as were Angola and Mozambique under Portuguese law. Thus, what are considered by everyone to have once been colonies were legally in the same position as NI. Ireland after the Union was not considered a colony but part of the home territory with a slightly different status than Britain.

  • Greenflag

    tmitch57,

    ‘after the Union was not considered a colony but part of the home territory with a slightly different status than Britain.’

    Slightly different status ? .Lets see . Catholics not permitted to practice their religion as per the penal laws , not permitted to sit in Parliament , not permitted to have fixity of rent or tenure of land , plus I’m sure a long list of other not permitteds .

    The as you call it the ‘slightly different status ‘ could be why O”Connell’s Repeal of the Union movement became so well supported . Catholic Emancipation finally arrived in 1829 about 50 years too late and just 4 years before the Abolition of Slavery Act of 1833 .

    Good job George Washington won the fight for USA freedom . Had he lost and it was only the French navy blockade which saved him from defeat he’d have been hanged along with the rest of the Declaration signatories as a traitor under British Law.

    Ireland and in particular Northern Ireland could be described as a half colony . Other earlier ‘colonisation ‘ attempts were made in the Irish midlands and in Munster but they failed and in time the ‘planters ‘ were absorbed by the local population to become as it’s said of the Normans -more Irish than the Irish themselves . The same fate occurred to the smaller Huguenot and German Palatine settlements although their names -Hederman , Switzer, Boveniser, La Touche , De la Rue etc are still extant as any Irish telephone directory will attest .