Long to stand for Alliance in East Belfast Assembly election

Naomi Long will be one of three Alliance candidates in East Belfast
Naomi Long will be one of three Alliance candidates in East Belfast

Former Alliance East Belfast MLA Naomi Long is to stand in the forthcoming Assembly elections – after considering quitting politics altogether.

She has been selected as one of three Alliance candidates for the election in the constituency in May.

Mrs Long, the former East Belfast MP, will stand alongside current East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle and Councillor Tim Morrow on the Alliance ticket after being selected at a meeting of the party’s East Belfast Association on Thursday night.

“I am delighted to have received this nomination on behalf of Alliance,” said Mrs Long.

“East Belfast has been my home all my life and I was truly honoured to have represented it for almost 15 years as a councillor, MLA and then MP.”

But she admitted that it was only at Christmas that she finally decided to continue in politics, after losing her Westminster seat last year to the DUP’s Gavin Robinson, on a united unionist ticket.

“It has been quite a bruising five years and I took the time to really think about it and to find my passion because I didn’t want to come back simply because people expected me to,” she told the BBC.

She added: “I’m absolutely convinced after reflecting on that there is still work to be done, that there is still a role for the Alliance party ... and that I still want to be part of that.”

She said that after polling more than 16,000 votes last May, the party believed it could win three Assembly seats.

There has been extensive speculation – which she remains tight lipped about – that as Alliance deputy leader, she could take the helm of her party as and when current leader and Justice Minister David Ford retires.