Belfast Telegraph

Gavin Robinson in tirade at Naomi Long as DUP win most acrimonious of battles in East Belfast

By Ivan Little

In the end it was a fight too far for the self-proclaimed Ginga Ninja.

And last night Naomi Long, who'd adopted the comic book nickname for her online campaign after her opponents tried to mock her about the colour of her hair, smiled through gritted teeth and fought back a tear as she lost her East Belfast seat to her adversary Gavin Robinson who knew he had the strength of a unionist pact behind him.

Yet even after Peter Robinson's namesake had won back the seat his party leader craved after his shock 2010 defeat, the battle between the tiny Alliance politician and the 6ft 3ins DUP man didn't end with the usual post-election niceties.

In his acceptance speech from the King's Hall stage, the former Belfast Lord Mayor launched into a furious tirade against an "untrustworthy" Mrs Long and her five "frustrating long years" in office.

Afterwards Mrs Long said Peter Robinson had been more gracious in defeat five years ago than his protege was in victory.

The incoming MP countered that he had been gracious to the outgoing MP in private but she hit back by saying that when she went to congratulate him on his win, he continued speaking on his mobile phone as they shook hands.

The two main protagonists in the high-profile East Belfast contest had been among the last candidates to arrive at the count centre and although they protested their ignorance of what had been going on, their body language told a different story.

As soon as Gavin Robinson walked in, a party worker kissed him and congratulated him on his victory.

"She gives me a big kiss every time she sees me," he said, fooling no one that he didn't know victory was in the bag.

Naomi Long's heart clearly wasn't in the laughter she shared with her party faithful and her strained, "I won't be making any comment until after the declaration" was an admission of defeat if ever there was one.

Later however the Ginga Ninja, who five years ago was the Wonder Woman of local politics as she put Peter Robinson to the sword, gathered herself sufficiently to accentuate the positives of her vote, which was 4,000 up on last time

She said: "It was a tremendous result - the highest vote we have ever polled in any constituency. Once the unionist pact was announced, we knew we were up against it but without it, East Belfast would still be an Alliance seat."

Several times Gavin Robinson made a point of thanking the First Minister who had shown up at the King's Hall - where there was talk of the DUP being kingmakers at Westminster - for encouraging him to become a politician and for mentoring him. But one DUP activist privately admitted that if the Robinson surname on the ballot paper had been preceded by the Christian name Peter and not Gavin, the DUP could again have been licking their wounds inflicted by the Ginga Ninja.

Belfast Telegraph


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