Belfast Telegraph

Election fever posing the challenge for Northern Ireland political leaders

By Noel McAdam

It’s not every day the Alliance Party leader makes a point of bolstering her DUP counterpart.

Yet Naomi Long has come in right behind Arlene Foster by confirming - there is a bug going about.

Mrs Long was battling the flu just as Mrs Foster had been struck down the day before.

“I think there is a lurgy going around. I have it.”

But unlike with the DUP there was to be no ‘cold’ front for journalists - even with the Belfast Telegraph revelations of party members private Facebook posts.

So If Naomi was holding her nose, it was for other reasons.

And indeed the way she turned a high temperature to her advantage was nothing to be sneezed at.

For there were loud cheers, and sustained applause, when Naomi pointed out that, again unlike that DUP woman, she WOULD be taking questions.

And in even greater contrast to  Mrs Foster, Mrs Long also rejected the notion that she was suffering from man flu - a far worse condition most often confined to the male of the species.

“I’ve always thought man flu was an invented disease...having not been a man I don’t know for sure,” she confessed.

Which might have been a dig at Arlene who 24 hours earlier was sure she was suffering from a “cold slash man flu”.

Naomi added: “All I know is I have real flu which is why I am slightly perspiring. I do apologise for that, and my slightly damp countenance.”

And that went a long way to explaining why Alliance types used to be called ‘wets’. 

Then she went on: “I’m managing to hold on regardless, but yeah, it’s just regular flu.”

For a party facing an unexpected election several years sooner than scheduled, and with an untested leader, Alliance appeared in high good humour.

Outgoing Strangford MLA Kellie Armstrong, chairing the event, confirmed their under-the-weather leader would indeed be taking questions - but only “planted” ones.

The party appears to have taken this election challenge on the chin, with candidates insisting they have knocked more doors than in earlier contests - though only up until 8pm.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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