Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Naomi Long: I regret mum wasn’t there to see me win

The DUP's Peter Robinson congratulates Alliance Party's Naomi Long after her East Belfast election victory
Naomi Long celebrates winning East Belfast this evening with her husband Michael
Belfast Lord Mayor and Alliance deputy leader Naomi Long

She was responsible for causing the biggest upset in the 2010 Westminster election in Northern Ireland after sensationally ousting Peter Robinson from his East Belfast constituency seat.

The red-headed politician is small in stature but she created massive shockwaves when she defeated the DUP man who had held the post for 31 years.

Since becoming a Belfast City councillor in 2001 Naomi Long’s political career has rocketed.

Among her many titles she is currently the Lord Mayor of the city, an MLA and deputy leader of the Alliance Party.

But who exactly is the woman behind the CV who was able to slay the political goliath and become the new MP for East Belfast?

Just hours after her stunning victory the 39-year-old trained civil engineer gave an insight to the Belfast Telegraph about her grassroots, what Peter Robinson said to her during ‘that’ moment she beat him and why the death of her mother overshadows her success.

Fiercely proud of her links to East Belfast, Naomi explains she came from a strong family unit.

“It was a Christian household in Downpatrick Street, just off Mersey Street in inner East Belfast, that I was brought up in and taught that I had responsibilities over and above just me and my family,” she said.

But after turning 11, life became harder for Naomi.

“My Dad James worked in the shipyard. He was made redundant when I was about nine, he had a heart attack and was quite ill. He died when I was 11.”

Her mum Emily was left to raise her on her own.

“We were very close. My mum was a very typical Belfast woman, she believed in telling the truth and speaking her mind but doing it with compassion and honesty,” she continued.

“Life is not easy when you are raising a child on a part-time wage on your own, which she was. It would have been easier for her if I went out to work at 16 but she insisted I stay at school and go to university and I am eternally grateful to her for that.”

But her mother sadly died last March.

“It’s my one regret in all of this, the Lord Mayor and being MP, that she is not here to see it. If I am half the woman she was I would be more than content.”

But one area of her life that does bring her joy is her husband Michael, who is also a councillor in Castlereagh.

The childhood sweethearts met at a church youth club aged 14 and stayed together.

“He was the only person who could put up with me,” she jokes.

But Michael was the first person she looked for when her victory over Peter Robinson was announced at Ards Leisure Centre on Friday morning.

The moment Robinson crashed to defeat sparked an election night sensation.

But Naomi said despite the shock loss of his seat, he did speak to her.

“I did briefly have a word when he shook hands with me. He congratulated me and wished me well and said he knew I would work hard for people.

“There is a degree of sympathy there but that doesn’t outweigh the fact that I’m delighted that I’ve won.”

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