Naomi Long: Incredible result due to voters believing our politics cannot get any worse

Alliance party figures (titles correct at time of picture) MLA John Blair, Julian McGrath (councillor), Neil Kelly (councillor), Billy Webb (councillor), Vikki McAuley (council candidate), Paul Campbell (councillor), Gary English (council candidate), Julie Gilmour (council candidate), David Ford (ex-leader)
Alliance party figures (titles correct at time of picture) MLA John Blair, Julian McGrath (councillor), Neil Kelly (councillor), Billy Webb (councillor), Vikki McAuley (council candidate), Paul Campbell (councillor), Gary English (council candidate), Julie Gilmour (council candidate), David Ford (ex-leader)

The leader of the Alliance Party has told the News Letter that, given the political deadlock at the heart of the Province, a number of voters have taken the plunge to vote Alliance for the first time.

Naomi Long was speaking at the Valley Leisure Centre in Newtownabbey, where the party secured some strong results.

It increased its councillors on Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council from four to seven, and topped the poll in terms of first-preference votes in four out of seven places (with one councillor, Neil Kelly, trouncing all competitors to win more than double his nearest rival’s first-preference votes).

Mrs Long said: “It’s an incredible result here in Antrim and Newtownabbey. It’s not a unique result.

“We have seen the Alliance vote expand across Northern Ireland... places where people traditionally write-off the Alliance Party.

“I think what it’s down to is the fact people first of all see Alliance offer positive politics... but more than that, they see what the Alliance Party is delivering on the ground.

“I don’t think people were voting for Brexit in the local government election. They know that they’ve got another opportunity to do that in the elections that are still to come on May 23. So I think Brexit only played a very small part in it.”

She said Alliance always hears voters saying they want “more integration”.

“And then it comes to polling day, and people get in the booth and feel afraid of what may happen if they change their vote. I think people have reached a point in this election where they feel it couldn’t get any worse.

“If I change my vote, how much worse can it be?”