Belfast Telegraph

Leaders' TV debate halted after Alliance chief Naomi Long's dizzy spell under studio lights

By Noel McAdam

Naomi Long has insisted that she has no health concerns after filming was stopped during a UTV leaders' debate when she felt faint yesterday.

The Alliance leader said that the sudden death of party councillor, Mervyn Jones, had taken a heavy toll on her over the last few days.

Mrs Long said that she had no "health issues" and was looking forward to taking part in tonight's BBC Northern Ireland party leaders' debate.

The Alliance leader felt faint and had to sit down during the hour-long programme.

But she quickly rallied, took a glass of water and the programme taping resumed after less than 15 minutes.

She told the Belfast Telegraph: "I haven't been sleeping well over the last few nights since the sudden death of Councillor Mervyn Jones.

"I was at City Hall for the inauguration of Nuala McAllister as Lord Mayor on Thursday night when I heard about Mervyn's death. I had to take out our councillors one by one and break the news to them.

"Mervyn and I were friends for over 20 years and I have been naturally very upset since he died."

But she also quipped: "I felt it was better sitting down before I fell down.

"I felt alright once I sat down and had a drink of water."

Mr Jones (66), who was a Belfast city councillor for 26 years and also served as the party's treasurer, will be buried today.

Mrs Long said that she "felt briefly faint" during the UTV debate and "that was exacerbated by the heat of the studio lights".

She added: "I took 10 minutes to sit down, have a glass of water, and I felt fine and returned to the debate.

"I have no health issues and look forward to joining other party leaders in Tuesday night's BBC debate."

It was during a number of heated exchanges over Brexit that Mrs Long suddenly stopped speaking, leaned over and put her hand to her mouth.

At one point it appeared she was having difficulty catching her breath.

A UTV staffer rushed forward across the election platform with a chair. Mrs Long sat down and was given a glass of water.

But she soon returned to the rostrum, with the glass of water close to her for the rest of the broadcast.

Last Thursday an Alliance party member discovered Mr Jones' body when they went to the former party treasurer's home after the 66-year-old failed to turn up for a council meeting.

Mr Jones represented the Pottinger Ward from 1985 until 2001 and then the Victoria Ward, now known as Ormiston, from 2005 until the present.

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