Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Lo gives the Alliance Party unwanted problem

Cartoon of the day
Cartoon of the day

Anna Lo is a courageous and plain speaking politician. She has been the victim of racist hate comments for her suggestion that flags and paramilitary murals should be taken down or painted over along the route of the Giro d'Italia cycle race in seven weeks' time. She has long campaigned on behalf of her native Chinese community and spoken out clearly on racism and sectarianism.

So should we be surprised that she gave a straight answer to the question when asked about her views on an united Ireland? She favours unity and feels it would be best for the whole island but accepts that it can only come about by consent of a majority of people in Northern Ireland. But, while we can applaud her honesty and accept that she is perfectly entitled to hold that view, was it a wise thing to say?

It poses a problem for her party, the Alliance Party, as the European and local council elections loom.

She has little realistic chance of winning one of the European seats, so her comments will not be a real disaster there. However with the party already under pressure over the issue of flying flags on council buildings, she has handed her opponents another piece of ammunition to direct at Alliance. There must have been undiluted glee in the ranks of the DUP, UUP and TUV when they read her comments yesterday morning.

Alliance leader David Ford tried to put a brave face on it, saying the party embraces a wide range of political opinion, but he knows that opponents will highlight Ms Lo's comments at every opportunity.

And the other high profile woman within the party, Naomi Long, will also be wondering if the flak will hinder her chances of retaining the East Belfast Westminster seat she won from DUP leader Peter Robinson at the last General Election. Ms Lo was naive in being so candid. Alliance has made great forward strides in recent times, but this is one pothole on the road the party could have done without.

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