Northern Ireland

Naomi Long officially becomes Alliance Party leader

Naomi Long
Image caption The former MP for East Belfast began her political career at Belfast City Council where she served as Lord Mayor

Naomi Long has become the new leader of the Alliance Party.

The East Belfast MLA has served as deputy leader up until now.

She was the only candidate for the vacancy, and now succeeds David Ford, who stood down earlier this month after 15 years in the job.

Members of the party council, which has 250 members, elected her at a meeting in an East Belfast hotel on Wednesday evening.

Accepting the role, Ms Long said: "Leadership is not just a position, it is an attitude."

She said the party's message to the people was a confident one "Vote Alliance and get Alliance."

Speaking to the BBC, she said: "It's not about a change of direction, it's about a change of pace.

"I want to re-energise our membership, but also re-energise a public who are jaded with politics and what passes for politics at Stormont.

"People who are interested in the political situation, but are not interested in much of what we see happening."

The Alliance Party operates solely in Northern Ireland and has eight MLAs in the Stormont assembly.

Mrs Long was the party's only MP - until she lost her seat in 2015 Westminster election.

The former MP for East Belfast began her political career at Belfast City Council, where she served as Lord Mayor.

In 2015, she lost her Westminster seat to the DUP's Gavin Robinson, who triumphed with support from the UUP.

Speaking earlier this month, Mrs Long said she would take the opportunity to "refresh, renew and re-energise the party".

Mr Ford said: "Leading a political party is not easy, but Naomi will be her own person and will make an excellent leader."

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