Belfast Telegraph

Naomi Long no need to apologise over 'balloons' jibe and could have gone further: Alliance's Stephen Farry

Party to investigate leak to Belfast Telegraph, says deputy leader

Stephen Farry has said Alliance leader Naomi Long has no need to apologise for calling two long-serving councillors "balloons" after their resignation from the party and that she could indeed "have gone further".

On BBC's Stephen Nolan show the deputy leader was quizzed on the party's manifesto, which was launched on Tuesday. 

The launch came just hours after the Belfast Telegraph exclusively revealed messages sent between party workers, politicians and volunteers of the party about attempting to "hijack" a BBC radio programme.

In those messages Naomi Long described two long-serving party councillors as "balloons" over their resignation from the party.

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

More: 'Balloons' jibe duo feel deeply hurt by insults

Mr Farry repeated Mrs Long own assertion that she "could have gone a lot further" and said the party leader should not have to apologise for it.

"It was not a public comment, it essentially happened behind closed doors and by whatever means the lid has been lifted on that."

"This is not a huge group. It has several hundred members so it is not a huge group within Facebook but the lid has been lifted on this by one means or another."

He added: "We have people who are being clear opportunists, they complained at Anna Lo because she made comments they disagreed with over a united Ireland and now all of a sudden they are supporting a party that believes in an united Ireland.

"Naomi has made it very clear she is not apologising and I think the individuals concerned need to apologise and explain themselves.

"They were not called balloons to their faces, it was on private group."

Mr Farry also said the party would look into the leak to this newspaper "in due course" but the party was focused on the election.

Asked specifically on the party's desire on wanting better government and to make politics "honest, open, responsible and respectful".

He was asked how this measured up to the messages on his party's 'secret' Facebook group.

Mr Farry described the revelations as "very much a storm in a tea cup".


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"We have a lot of what are a lot of exaggerated and sensationalist headlines."

"I am happy to discuss the matter. These were comments made on a closed group on Facebook which we use for internal party discussions among activists and volunteers.

 "Anything that is a private conversation will look different whenever it is revealed by underhand means to the rest of the world."

Mr Farry claimed other parties were involved in the same practise, "but the laugh about this, is that we have been very unsuccessful in the past".

"There may be a few unfortunate phrases in something that was framed for an internal discussion and not for public discussion."

He added: "If there is some notion that we hijacked Talkback, go back and listen, play the tape."

On spin doctor Scott Jamieson's boasts they were successful in last year's election campaign in "hijacking the show," Mr Farry said: "I think there is a degree of exaggeration.

"It is a turn of phrase of someone trying to encourage others to call into shows in context of our members being shy in that regard."

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