Belfast Telegraph

'Balloons' jibe duo feel deeply hurt by insults

By Claire O'Boyle

One of the councillors described as a "complete balloon" by Alliance leader Naomi Long just weeks after quitting the party says she feels hurt and betrayed by the woman she once thought of as a friend.

Geraldine Rice, who served the party for nearly 30 years, said she had been reduced to tears by Mrs Long's "hateful" comments.

"I helped campaign for her to be elected to Westminster, I walked the streets for Alliance year after year, canvassing on doorsteps and getting the word out there," said Ms Rice (70).

"I thought Naomi was my friend.

"Reading the words she used to describe me has been really upsetting. It's so offensive and I never thought after all the years I served that party it would end up like this for me. No decent person would speak to or about someone like that, it's nasty, hateful and horrible."

Ms Rice and her colleague Vasundhara Kamble quit the party last month, claiming they were sidelined amidst accusations of ageism, racism and elitism.

On a secret Alliance Party Facebook account earlier this month Mrs Long described the women as "two complete balloons".

"Talking about the whole thing, I'm filling up," added Ms Rice. "I never thought I would leave Alliance. But I'm glad I have, and I will never support the party again. I think Naomi Long has lost the run of herself.

"How dare she speak about us like that in front of nearly 200 people on this site? No decent person or decent party would treat people the way they have treated us."

Ms Kamble said slinging insults showed Alliance had become a "low level" party.

She said: "That's just not acceptable, particularly from a party leader.

"My money was good enough for them as a member, my work was good enough for them as I canvassed, but any higher than that and I was not good enough. To read about insults like this from the leader is very upsetting."

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