The eyes of the world were on east Belfast in the early hours of Friday morning as 'local girl' Naomi Long sensationally unseated the DUP MP of over 30 years, Peter Robinson.
The ensuing days have seen an exhausting round of meetings, talks and interviews but the new MP had a special message for her supporters: “I want to thank the people of east Belfast. They have given me a massive responsibility and put their trust in me and I hope I will be able to earn their confidence.”
Friday’s victory was all the sweeter as it marked the first time the Alliance Party had had a member elected to Westminster.
“It was a very emotional night, especially for Jim Hendron. He was a founder member of the party. There was elation that we had actually done it after 40 years,” she said.
Mrs Long says she wasn’t as shocked at the result as others because of the feedback on the doorsteps, but she added: “Peter Robinson is a formidable opponent for any politician. We were very relieved.”
Mrs Long, who will be stepping down as Lord Mayor next month, is looking forward to going to Westminster this Tuesday, May 18, and has been talking with the team who help new arrivals settle in. “It is going to be daunting, particularly when you’re doing it on your own,” she said but added that she had friends at Westminster who would guide her.
“I plan to be as active as I can be. A lot of the decisions have direct implications for east Belfast, right from the top of the food chain, the budget and its implications for the Northern Ireland block grant but even down to other things like our benefits and pensions and taxation systems.”
Having been an outspoken critic of ‘double jobbing’, she will relinquish her position at Stormont also. “I plan to step down as an MLA in due course.”
The Alliance grouping is entitled to nominate someone else to take her place and discussions are ongoing on that.
“From my point of view it has been a real privilege to be able to represent east Belfast at the council and the Assembly and I am thrilled now to take this job on. I would encourage people not to be hesitant about coming to see me.
“The constituency work is what I have enjoyed most about my time in politics and it’s what I want to keep focussing on.”