Alliance leader faces questions after backing out of Ireland’s Future event

Alliance leader Naomi Long is facing questions after pulling out of an Irish unity event.

Ms Long had been due to address the Ireland’s Future event at the SSE Arena in Belfast next Saturday.

Ireland’s Future terms itself as a civic nationalist non-profit which campaigns for new constitutional arrangements on the island of Ireland.

Its previous events have been addressed by a range of speakers, including former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Leo Varadkar at an Ireland's Future event in 2022
Leo Varadkar speaking at an Ireland’s Future event in 2022 (Niall Carson/PA)

An Alliance Party spokesperson said Ms Long’s decision not to take part is down to the unexpected General Election.

North Belfast election candidate Nuala McAllister will instead represent the party.

“Unfortunately due to the snap election and short nature of the campaign, Naomi Long’s diary has had to see a number of last-minute changes and, therefore, she is unable to participate in this event due to other pressing commitments,” they said.

Ireland’s Future secretary Niall Murphy said: “It is unfortunate that Naomi Long has indicated she is no longer available to participate in the Pathway to Change event at the SSE arena. Ireland’s Future regrets that this is the case.”

DUP director of elections Gordon Lyons contended that Ms Long “has further questions to answer about her Ireland’s Future attendance”.

“Naomi Long should explain why she ever agreed to attend the Ireland’s Future anti-unionist event,” he said.

Stormont Assembly - The DUP's Gordon Lyons
The DUP’s Gordon Lyons (Liam McBurney/PA)

“Unionists throughout Northern Ireland know exactly why the Alliance Party has pulled out of this event. They shouldn’t be played for fools.”

Stormont Opposition leader Matthew O’Toole also queried Ms Long’s decision.

“The Alliance Party is entitled to have no position on whether we rejoin the EU via a new Ireland, but voters deserve better than the wink/nudge opportunism its leader is indulging,” the SDLP representative said.

“Many voters of all perspectives will reflect on the decision to pull out of this event – an hour’s commitment inside Naomi Long’s constituency – and ask why it was an impossible ask but overseeing the entire criminal justice system is perfectly manageable alongside the campaign.

“This claim is simply not credible and taking voters of all perspectives for fools.

“Naomi’s claim of an election campaign clash is rendered even more absurd by the fact that her replacement, Nuala McAllister, is a candidate in the same election.”

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