Long recalls how mother stood up to kerbstone painters

Naomi Long says her mother taught her about individual responsibility
Naomi Long says her mother taught her about individual responsibility

Alliance MLA Naomi Long has told how her mother stood up to neighbours attempting to intimidate southern workmen by painting the kerb stones while they were working in a loyalist street in east Belfast.

The former East Belfast MP and Alliance deputy leader recalled how her mother’s defiance had consequences for the family.

The incident is recounted tonight on a BBC Northern Ireland film which follows five MLA hopefuls as they face the electorate in May’s election.

In the documentary, Mrs Long says: “I remember incidents when I was growing up where my mum took a stand, as a woman living alone in a very predominantly loyalist community, where she felt that people were doing things that she didn’t approve of.

“I remember there were workmen who came from the Republic of Ireland to work opposite our home and in response to that people started to paint kerbs in the street and so on – deliberately to make them feel uncomfortable.

“She stood up to that and challenged that and said it was wrong and wouldn’t contribute any money to the painting and asked them not to paint the kerbs outside our house.”

Mrs Long said that although that might “seem like a very trivial thing”, it was a brave thing to do in “a community where speaking out can have consequences”, and as a result “a massive Union Flag” was painted outside the Long house, with the words ‘Remember 1690’ and ‘No surrender’. She said that her mother taught her about “individual responsibility” in such situations.

At one point in the film, Emma Little-Pengelly – who went on to be elected as DUP MLA for South Belfast – said that at that stage she had knocked 13,000 doors as part of the hard slog to get elected.

And Upper Bann candidate Doug Beattie – who was also elected as an MLA – recounted how as a 10-year-old his father, grief-stricken from his mother’s death and drinking too much, would waken him up at 2am to play him songs which had been special to his mother, before he was sent off to school the next morning.

Sinn Fein’s Megan Fearon said that when she was first co-opted into Stormont fresh out of university, some people had said “I was only there because I was a woman”, something she said was “an insult”.

• Vote will be broadcast on BBC One tonight at 10.45