“Two balloons”? And the Facebook age finally strikes the Alliance party.

Looks like someone sneaked into the Alliance Party’s closed Facebook group and came out telling tales. Or maybe it was just someone inside the party who wasn’t too chuffed at the nature of some of the offline online chatter:

In an exchange with supporters in the ‘Alliance Party Activists and Volunteers’ group about councillors Geraldine Rice and Vasundhara Kamble, Mrs Long wrote:

“These two are complete balloons. They staged a sitdown protest when Anna Lo got a standing ovation because she said in an interview the week before she was in favour of a united Ireland.”

That’s not a term you hear outside of Belfast many days of the week. Anyhoo, it broke with a story about them using the group to encourage people to flood talkback with enormous callers (all parties do it, the trick is, er, not to get caught).

The SDLP in Lagan Valley launched their boats:

“Naomi Long should immediately clarify if she did or didn’t make these comments and apologise to the two councillors in question if she did. I also call on local Alliance candidate Trevor Lunn to clarify that he does not support or endorse these comments in any way.”

But this is an election (and it was Facebook after all). So, Mrs Long came clean this afternoon:

Speaking after her party’s election manifesto launch, Naomi Long said she used the word “balloons” on a private social media site. I think most people will be surprised all I said was balloons.

Well, maybe. The official response when the two left the party was muted. A couple of weeks ago they both came out for the SDLP’s Pat Catney. It also so happens Mr Catney papers were signed by former Alliance party MLA Seamus Close. [Not officially a ‘balloon’ either, we understand – Ed.]

Finally, the SDLP also bagged former NI21 councillor (the only one) Johnny McCarthy, whilst former Green party chair Conor Quinn ran for the party  (unsuccessfully) in the 2014 local elections (interesting clash of old colleagues there). Could be fun to watch on the night.

Anyone free to write the post-election screenplay: Revenge of the Balloons?

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  • Biftergreenthumb

    Nonsense. The Troubles, and most political and social instability in Northern Ireland since the Troubles ended, has been caused by sectarian tribalists (green or orange) moaning about their national identity e.g. dissident republican activity, the flag protests, riots in the Ardoyne every 12th etc.

    You don’t see Alliance supporters with masks on throwing bricks and bottles at the police screaming about how their identity and culture is under attack.

    Right-wing sectarian identity politics is the problem with Northern Ireland. Liberal secular rationalism is the solution.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    It is ironic that you, and others of an alt-right persuasion, complain about liberal, Alliance types as being too caught up in identity politics when it is obviously you who are obsessed with your own ethnicity, culture, nationality etc and want to portray youself and your tribe as victims “at the bottom of the stacking order”. You poor “ethnically white European, straight, Christian/conservative” snowflake!

  • Brendan Heading

    The allegations are very serious, but have no credibility. There’s no basis in fact for them. When challenged, the two councillors were unable to provide any examples of racism or ageism. They were unable to counter the fact that the party is chaired by a pensioner from an ethnic majority background; nor can they counter the fact that Ms Kamble’s selection in the first instance some years ago counters the idea that there is any kind of racism in practice.

    One of the two councillors in particular is well known for her hostility within the party, which has been made public at least once, and is widely believed to have arisen out of her deselection in favour of Anna Lo ten years ago in South Belfast. Frankly my only criticism of the party is that they didn’t throw her out when she publicly criticised a sitting MLA (and European candidate) a couple of years back.

    For someone like Gaygael to come along feigning concern and suggesting that there is some basis in fact here is a shameful attempt to politicise an internal squabble for selfish electoral purposes. None of this would be going on if there wasn’t an election in the offing, and I find this behaviour extremely opportunistic.

    While we’re here, let’s score the Greens on internal matters. Are they learning anything from the short spat on Twitter yesterday when Steven Agnew badly phrased his condemnation of a petrol bomb attack on a Sinn Féin and found himself facing accusations of being equivocal over threats to other parties ? I knew Stevie was under pressure with the election and probably mis-spoke, and he confirmed this himself. Some chose to try to make an issue of it. I wonder how party activists felt about this – if I was them I’d have felt that the criticism was unfair.

    Someone making mischief could try to ask the Greens about the exact circumstances under which Agnew succeeded Brian Wilson, circumstances which we know led to Wilson challenging Agnew in his own constituency. Or the story behind the departure of Cadogan Enright in South Down. Or they could ask about the circumstances under which Ross Brown left, and for details of how the vacancy on Belfast City Council was subsequently filled. There are all kinds of rumours circulating about these matters in the background – most of them probably untrue, and probably circulated by embittered individuals who felt excluded – and the reason, to answer the question “why has nobody picked up on this” is because anyone with any sense knows not to try to make political hay out of the internal misfortunes of others because if they do it will eventually come back to bite them.

    Finally, the reason why you would be “gone” in a workplace is not so much because workplaces have strict rules, but because workplaces are required by law to investigate every single spurious and embittered allegation, and failure to investigate accusations even when they are known to be utterly false carries automatic consequences.

  • Brendan Heading


    It is a straightforward matter of time before someone comes out to make unfair and unfounded accusations against the Green Party in public; or leaks details about the Green Party to the press. It happens to all political parties which are internally democratic and organise internal competitions for party roles and elected posts, which the Greens do.

    People attacking a party from within in this way are attacking all of its members and trying to put its elected representatives out of a job. It is invariably personal, nasty and messy. When it happens, I hope you’ve remembered all of these patronising lectures about how to properly investigate such things, and I’m sure you’ll keep us informed with full reports of the internal investigations.

  • Brendan Heading

    Alliance certainly is a living hell for skinheads and the alt-right; it expects its members to be tolerant and welcome diversity; and I hope and trust in that respect that it never changes.

  • Brendan Heading

    Both of these one-line contributions to a detailed attempt to explain the reality across political parties are as ignorant as they are stupid.

    For the record, I’m aware of a number of relatively nasty internal matters involving both of the major unionist parties – most of them salacious and deeply embarrassing; some recent, and some stretching back years; which will probably end up in the papers or published in someone’s memoirs before long. These matters are open secrets within political and journalistic circles in Northern Ireland.

    Damaging allegations appearing on the front page of a newspaper are often well known in such circles months before they become public. As I tried, patiently, to explain, there is an unwritten code of honour among most political parties that they will not try to make political capital from the outworkings of internal disputes or salacious nonsense. I am not a politician or a party representative, but I think this is a good approach to take – that’s why you’ll never seen me writing or commenting about an internal matter except in passing.

  • Brendan Heading

    They were stolen somewhere else, and deliberately erected by someone attempting to claim that the party wasn’t abiding by the all-party poster agreement. It’s sad stuff.

  • Brendan Heading

    This is typical of the kind of comment for someone unfamiliar with what usually goes on.

    The interview today was fairly typical of a Farry interview, and typical of a Nolan interview (remember that it is not the hosting personality who asks the questions – it is the extensive, well funded research team who has briefed the interviewer and are talking to him through his earpiece while the interview is in progress). The Nolan/Vinny style is to barrack people without giving them a chance to explain themselves, and there was plenty of that – in fairness the other parties tend to get treated similarly.

    Farry is a details man, and spoke extensively about the details in the manifesto. He was caught out on one matter of fact about export statistics where Alliance’s proposed target was below the level of the current exports according to the latest figures. Looking up the stats in question, they were published in February 2017, so I’ll guess that the Alliance manifesto has repeated the statistic used in the 2016 election. For the most part the 2016 manifesto was perfectly fine, and with limited resources slips like this were inevitable.

    I’ve been hearing a version of these accusations “holier than thou” “hypocritical” etc for well over 20 years, and looking through old newspapers, I can see them dating back the 1970s. The reality is that people can’t accept that a genuinely non-sectarian party is actually possible; they also can’t come up with original criticisms, which is why these old accusations still get rehashed decades later.

  • Brendan Heading

    David turned against Alliance over marriage equality.

  • Brendan Heading

    If NI Water were able to raise money at favourable rates, they would be able to invest in efficiency savings which would reduce their day-to-day costs. Those savings would be used to pay off the borrowed money; the water system would work better and more efficiently, and, after repayment of the debt, would cost less to run.

    If you listened to Farry carefully, you’d have noted that he made reference to borrowing at “favourable rates”. Northern Ireland Water already borrows; it has a total of £1.4bn of debt on the books (£1.1bn of which is loans/borrowing) and it’s paying about £62m/year to service this debt. His case was that reorganising NI Water’s funding model could allow it to borrow more cheaply. This would open the option of refinancing the debt and reducing the servicing costs.

    I’m not sure why any reasonable person, familiar with corporate finance, would object to this idea.

  • Brendan Heading


    I was unaware of a joint media protocol, although I knew it was a joint bill. I suspect Ryan’s comments are based on the same and I doubt they are intentionally malicious. Like myself, he probably picks up most of what he knows from what is reported in public. Regular party members who are not generally active do not get briefings about agreements of this type.

    These arbitrary dividing lines about what is or is not progressive are daft. I mean, I could say that any party which has never been led by a woman cannot be genuinely progressive; or that any party which has never selected a member of an ethnic minority has racist tendencies. It would be nonsense, but this seems to be the type of thing that you insist on pulling.

    It’s up to you, but I think you should stop. Those of us in the centre are going to have to work together to advance the social issues in this country which are important to us. Our opponents are the DUP and Sinn Féin, not each other.

  • Brendan Heading

    A few years back an Alliance councillor in Bangor defected to the DUP. What conclusions do the simple-minded draw from that defection, I wonder ..

  • Msiegnaro

    Well this old simple minded poster couldn’t say.

  • Brendan Heading


    You are unfamiliar with political parties and, apparently, the real world in general. Please allow me to help.

    All political parties expect their members to refrain from criticism in public; all political parties require new members to sign a declaration to the effect that they will uphold the aims/objectives of the party; all parties have a disciplinary process outlined in their constitution.

    No political party will tolerate sustained public attacks from its own members, or elected representatives voting diametrically against party principles or manifest commitments (indeed Alliance is fairly lax about this – Geraldine Rice attacked the party during an election and was not expelled)

    Nobody representing Alliance has suggested that the party is above criticism. They suggested that critiquing a private conversation out of context is invalid, which is not the same thing.

    Political parties seldom publicly admit that they were wrong in general terms. There may be admissions about past decisions, or about policies which are in the course of being changed.

    In short, your criticisms are either invalid, or apply in equal terms not only to all political parties, but all formally constituted organisations comprising groups of likeminded people.

  • Brendan Heading

    That’s entirely in line with expectations.

  • David Crookes

    Many thanks, gentlemen. I’m sorry that my knowledge of the real world is woefully inferior to your own.

    For the record, Brendan, so far from having ‘turned against’ the Alliance Party, I have regarded it as unhelpful from the day of its birth. But don’t let me spoil your little flourish of omniscience.

  • Msiegnaro

    If one remembers correctly Alliance were forcing their members to support gay marriage.

  • Jimmy

    Well that says a lot about him and how he treats and feels about other people. Keep saying it how it is Brendan.

  • Jimmy

    And so they should, opposition to equal marriage may be a political issue to some, but to many it really does affect them. You wont be attacking Alliances policy when you see the suicide rates amongst young LGBT citizens. Last year they thankfully began to fall and this was largely due to the introduction of Equal Marriage in GB. Please on this is issue remember that it isn’t the Christians who cant get marry so its a bit rich of them to moan as if theyre being discriminated against. Alliance was 100% right to back equality and I’m proud that they decided to do so.

  • Gopher

    How should you treat small bakeries doing nobody any harm? That’s a black-op that certainly caused blow back.

  • David Crookes

    Aw, here we go again. I’m trying to talk about a broadcast involving Mr Farry, and I get attacked by an apparent victim of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.


    The Alliance Party’s plot to abuse the BBC’s phone-lines was reprehensible.

    Mrs Long’s attempt to pass the whole thing off as ‘tongue-in-cheek’ was literally unbelievable.

    Mr Farry’s statements of this morning were intolerably pompous and self-righteous.


    Otherwise people will suspect that you are incapable of reasoned argument.

  • Msiegnaro

    You’re assuming I’m against same sex marriage.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Well in my defence as no one ever explains why i am so wrongly wrong I never have the chance to learn from my wrongliness.

    Perhaps you could help out and set me out on the path of right right rightliness?

  • Jimmy

    ‘You’ in the plural sense. The sense in which is addressing those who oppose equal marriage. I don’t know whether I’m saying this to you or not. It doesn’t change my point and I am also saying this to those who disagree with Alliances position

  • Msiegnaro

    Well we can’t have any criticism of the Alliance. This is typical of the left wing, liberal agenda – telling people what to think.

  • Jimmy

    Criticise Alliance if you wish. You have a right to do so, just as I have the right to defend the party along with the SDLP, SF, PUP, GREEN, CISTA etc, for having (in my opinion) the right position on this issue.

  • Msiegnaro

    PBP too surely?

  • Gaygael

    I clearly articulated your stance re the internal issues below.
    All parties have them including mine as you have previously pointed out.
    If a party member made similar serious accusations I would be ensuring that the only public comment from reps is that it’s under investigation or that despite receiving no formal complaint from members we will be thoroughly investigating.

    That’s the whole bloody point.
    It’s crack handed and exceptionally unprofessional to slag off people that have made complaints of discrimination (no matter how unfounded you believe them to be).

  • Gaygael

    Did you just publish the findings of the internal inquiry? Or is that just your take on events? You have decided no basis in facts, and must obviously be appraised of all the facts?

    See below why I think this is Cack handed. I have been observing Rices apparent discontent for years. I’m surprised it took this long.

    Nice to see the teeth barred Brendan but I think it’s maybe what I’m saying is too close to truth. How are complaints of racism and sexism handled in your workplace?

    Of course there are rumours and I don’t doubt political rivals will stir it up. If any member of my party left with accusations of discrimination I would be acting as I have suggested below not slagging them off in the media with limited right to reply.

    Seems you just don’t get it. That last paragraphs kinda sums up why you don’t get it.

  • Jag

    Oh, that sounds eminently sensible Brendan, paying 4% interest on debt when you could refinance at 1%, makes a lot of sense.

    Unfortunately, having listened to Farry “carefully”, certainly more carefully than most of Nolan’s audience, all I heard was, NI Water would borrow for capital improvements, and that somehow borrowing was free money, with the distinct suggestion the borrowings didn’t need to be repaid.

  • AndyB

    It was East Belfast, I believe – certainly wasn’t South as I was at that selection meeting!

    What doesn’t add up about that bid is that she would have known there were only going to be two candidates in East Belfast. It is right that under party rules Naomi and Chris should have to seek reselection rather than being automatically put forward, but the nature of things in any party is that unless the incumbents are doing a bad job as MLAs, the members will choose to put them forward as candidates again.

  • Neonlights

    I think if you take the words literally you’re right. However, if you’re thinking about changing sides, then that doesn’t mean that there and then you stop working for the current one. Normally it means that you continue on while trying to correct the parts you are unhappy with. You persevere for a bit, then wish you hadn’t. 🙂

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Yeah we know the stupid games people get up to like you say sad stuff I would be more interested canvassing around doors and letting people know how my party can help progress politics on here

  • Granni Trixie

    That’s brilliant Nevin. I didn’t realise we were so comical in these parts.

  • Nevin

    ‘Ya buck eejit, ya’ is so much more eloquent than Captain Mainwaring’s ‘you silly boy’! We have a lot of expressions for rain and nearly as many for idiot/eejit.

  • Jimmy

    They had considerable dislike for the Alliance Party, even while they were within the party. They didn’t stand and clap for Anna Lo, and they criticised her and went to the DUP Telegraph to express her ‘shock.’ The reality is that Anna Lo defeated her to become South Belfast MLA and Geraldine Rice has clearly held it against Alliance ever since. And I apologise if it was East instead of south its just Mrs Kamble’s constituency is South Belfast (well Castlereagh South is)

  • Jimmy

    I knew I forgot one ahaha

  • AndyB

    I believe that constituency party membership depends on where you live, but you can stand in other consituencies, thinking of a friend of mine who put himself forward for the “wrong” constituency some years ago because nobody living in the constituency had put themselves forward.

    I don’t know which constituencies Mrs Rice and Mrs Kamble actually live in… if it’s not Lagan Valley, they are in for a shock.

  • Gaygael

    Obviously some people will fake anger particularly people from parties that don’t really care about equality.

    I’m just shocked at how badly it was handled and how alliance members, leaders and reps have attacked these two women’s characters before any sort of investigation.

    It’s more incredulous with Alliance being usually so good on diversity. I’ve been reeling for weeks.

    I shudder that so many self ascribed liberals and progressives think this is an ok way to handle such serious allegations, regardless of anyone’s opinion on the veracity of them.

  • Jimmy

    An investigation takes place when evidence is provided, at the moment the cllr’s have made all these claims, but haven’t provided much evidence to back them up. If these cllr’s can back them up, I will be first person to call for an inquiry.

  • Jimmy

    I think Geraldine Rice lives in Carryduff. It said in the DUP telegraph interview. Thanks for clarifying that for me aswell 🙂

  • Gaygael

    Your stated ideas belie a lack of understanding of good practice on equality and anti discriminatory practice.

    An investigation does not require evidence, particular when said organisation professes to be progressive!

    The (impartial) investigation will determine the validity of the claims. I may have a suspicion in what motivated their allegations. If I’m partially involved in that investigation I need to ensure impartiality, something your party leadership has failed to do. For shame.

    You deleted a comment earlier this week where I advised you to look up the definition of victimisation. Look it up Mickey.

  • Gaygael

    No honey (mickey). An investigation takes place when accusations are made. Not on the basis of evidence provided.

    Maybe you should brush up on equality and anti discrimination law and good practice before commentating.
    I do note that you deleted your comment to which I responded that you should gain some basic understanding of what ‘victimisation’ meant.

    I don’t think you have done your homework.

  • Gaygael

    I would also say it’s also interesting that there was a complaint against these councillors for voting against party policy.

    Where there any compliants against alliance MLAs that repeatedly and multiple times voted against party policy on equal marriage?

  • Guilty of Wrongthink

    With all those pansies about it’s also a living hell for anyone with a backbone. (unless you are a slyly using Alliance as a mere vector to push the Fenian agenda by the backdoor as many are also doing)

  • Guilty of Wrongthink

    There is not a contradiction. If the identity of the nation is unquestionably protected by politicians or a constitutions at the top by default, then there is no need to continually even question these issues and raise them in day-to-day business. Alliance allows this to be open to dispute and constantly attacks those with local identity, and in common with all PC liberal lunatic parties will promote the identities of the outsider, including endless explicit promotion of e.g. pro-brown /anti-white racism, pro-female/anti-male sexism, anti-family heterophobia etc. etc.

  • Jimmy

    I’d be surprised if there wasn’t. Equal Marriage as with other social issues are a bit different to other issues but I still remember hearing about someone leaving the party over the issue (because they were unhappy that at one stage 3/8 MLA’s voted against). I would be unfair of me to judge them for voting against party position without knowing what they were voting for. However, again it does just seem like sour grapes.

  • Jimmy

    I put my hands up and admit it, I don’t know much about anti discrimination law, but what I do know is that those cllr’s made lots of empty claims with no evidence to back it up. Obviously I am biased as I think (if true) the alliance cllr’s in Lisburn were right to tell her ‘she wasn’t an appropriate face for Alliance today’ as she clearly doesn’t like anyone within the party who supports a united Ireland, which doesn’t really make sense as it is the Alliance Party ahaha.

  • Granni Trixie

    Watch your language please.