Naomi Long’s husband Michael will not be replacing her in the Assembly, he has said.
Mr Long, who is a popular east Belfast councillor in his own right and also practises as a dentist, told the News Letter that he would not be keeping Mrs Long’s Stormont seat warm until she returns from Brussels.
Under Stormont legislation which bans double-jobbing, Mrs Long cannot continue to serve as an MLA as well as an MEP.
However, she said that even without that ban on holding the two posts she would not have done so because of the work involved in each case.
One of the difficulties for Alliance will be finding a capable figure who is willing to accept the unique uncertainty of the post, with the expectation being that if the UK leaves the UK later this year or next year that Mrs Long would then be co-opted back into the Assembly to take their place.
Mrs Long told Good Morning Ulster that she was planning for a five-year term as MEP. She said: “I’m still going to be party leader, I’m still going to be involved at the party talks process at Stormont and I’m still going to be engaged in the day-to-day politics of Northern Ireland so I don’t think that’s going to change dramatically.”
She said that Alliance was “not a one-person party” and now had a strong team in the Assembly and local government.
When asked who would replace her in the Assembly, she said: “Oh, that won’t be my job. That will be a job for the local association and I’ll have one say in that but it will be the same say as everyone else does.”
Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said that he would deputise for Mrs Long “as and when required”. However, he said that the party saw no problem in being led by an MEP and that she would still spend considerable time in Northern Ireland.
Dr Farry, who has been in the party for nearly three decades, said that Alliance had only been able to break through as it did in last week’s election because the party had survived a “near-death experience” in 2003 when it took just 3.7% of the vote but kept its six MLAs.
“We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs over the last 25 years,” he said.
The party had been on an upward trajectory from that point, the North Down MLA said, but this victory “has taken us on to a new level”.
“It was always the hope that this was possible that kept us alive during difficult political times.”