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Alliance leader Naomi Long to return to Stormont

Alliance leader Naomi Long
Alliance leader Naomi Long

Alliance leader Naomi Long is set to return to the Assembly, it has been confirmed.

Mrs Long had to resign her seat when she was elected to the European Parliament in May, however her time as an MEP is set to end on January 31.

Alliance veteran Maire Hendron took over her role as East Belfast MLA, however she has now resigned the position.

On Wednesday, Northern Ireland's Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea confirmed Naomi Long is to take up her Stormont seat as of 12.01am on Thursday.

In December's General Election, the Alliance leader fought to oust the DUP's Gavin Robinson as MP for East Belfast, a position she previously held when she defeated Peter Robinson in 2010. This time round however, she lost out on the seat, receiving 19,055 votes to Mr Robinson's 20,874.

Mrs Long's return to the Assembly could see her take a seat in any future Executive - potentially taking up the role of Justice Minister, which was previously held by former part leader David Ford.

It is understood the Alliance leader will not be taking her wages or expenses as an MLA until her role as an MEP officially ends on January 31.

One of Northern Ireland's other two MEPs, the Democratic Unionist Party's Diane Dodds, has been selected to replace former Upper Bann MLA Carla Lockhart.

Ms Lockhart stood down when she was elected as an MP last month.

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