Page last updated at 10:52 GMT, Friday, 23 April 2010 11:52 UK

As it happened: Alliance's Naomi Long

Naomi Long

Alliance Party deputy leader Naomi Long has been answering questions posed by listeners to BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme.

We covered the interview as it happened on Friday, and you can read a transcript of events below.

It was the second in a series of Talkback phone-ins during the election campaign. Next up is Sir Reg Empey of the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists at 1200 BST on Monday, and you can follow it on the BBC NI election website.

Get involved by submitting your questions to talk.back@bbc.co.uk, by calling Wendy's answer-machine on 028 90338255 and of course via Twitter.


1248 And here's the last question, which comes from caller Gerry. He wants to know her view on the government bailout for the Presbyterian Mutual Society (PMS). Mrs Long is a favour of it as elderly people lost access to their money. She says there were issues with the PMS regulation, that those who failed should be held to account, but savers should not be left in an invidious situation.

1247 Now we're getting technical: a caller asks why did the Alliance bypass the D'hondt system to get David Ford into the justice job. She reckons they didn't. (don't have the space to explain D'hondt here, but click here for a full guide)

1245 And here's another topical issue - double-jobbing. Mrs Long is an assembly member and Belfast City Councillor. She says she would give up her assembly seat if she becomes an MP, but she's making no commitment to ending her dual mandate as MLA and councillor.

1243
Naomi Long
A caller believes Alliance is really a unionist party masquerading under a cross-community banner. Mrs Long says again she will not be wrapping herself in any flag. "We are not masquerading as either tribe. What we do is judge the issues. It would be a lot easier for use to get votes, we have to work a lot harder to get our votes," she says.

1241 On the issue of fuel prices, Mrs Long says her party would increase the winter fuel allowance.

1240 Hugo (no, not that one) emails to ask: "Is the Alliance Party supportive of visual pollution of wind turbines?" Mrs Long says: "I hold my hands up, I actually find the turbines quite attractive, maybe that's because I'm an engineer."

1238 Michael's on the phone, asking about immigration and the off-shoring of jobs. He thinks it has led to the loss of employment and the undermining of welfare system. Mrs Long says the focus needs to be on creating sustainable jobs in Northern Ireland and increasing ethical standards in world trade to "avoid a race to the bottom".

1235 Here comes another regular caller, Bertie, who asks about the NHS and what the Alliance's policies are. Mrs Long says that's a devolved issue so fundamentally it's about how much money they get from the Treasury. She would aim to protect that funding, she also talks about wraparound social care and health promotion and disease prevention. "I believe the NHS is hugely important, we need to protect that. We need to look at how we invest in health, in improving peoples health so we have a more healthy population," she says.

1232 What's the difference between the Alliance and the big four parties, now they are part of the Executive with David Ford? Mrs Long says their focus on tackling tribalism still makes them unique.

1231
Naomi Long
Mrs Long is asked if the Alliance are a unionist party or a united Ireland party? She says: "I'm about building a united community and am not wrapping myself in any flag. We need to resolve our internal difficulties"

1230 Another Lib Dem question - would she favour a formal tie up? No, in a nutshell.

1228
text message
Our old friend Anonymous texts to say: "In these times of high unemployment how does Mrs long feel about Gordon Brown's statement 'British jobs for British workers?'" She says: "This idea is against all the best ideas for growing the economy. I want our local people to be competitive so they know when they got that job, they didn't get it because they were local, they got it because they were good."

1225
Wendy Austin
Wendy moves onto the Alliance's links with their sister party, the Liberal Democrats? Would they take their whip? She says it's a sisterly relationship but she would not be tied to any party. She would put NI's needs first. "We stand on our own party political platform. That will not always coincide with what is best for regions of England and we would not be tied by any party whip," she says.

1224 Dennis on the phone wants to know more about the Alliance Party's economic policies. Mrs Long moves onto public spending - she notes the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists' policy of a rapid cut in the deficit, saying she doesn't agree with that pace as it would damage the Northern Ireland economy by casting lots of public servants onto the dole. She favours a more gradual rebalancing of the NI economy. And again she return to the costs of sectarian segregation.

1222 Mrs Long moves onto education - she says there is a skills gap between the jobs Northern Ireland needs and what people are trained for. She wants to improve skills to secure high-quality foreign investment.

1221 John on the text asks why Mrs Long doesn't take on the Catholic Church about their segregated schools? She says she is a big advocate for integrated education and always speaks up in favour of it.

1220 You know that phantom driller that Wendy was talking about earlier? Well we're blaming him for our refreshing problems. Hopefully they're sorted out now, but if the page isn't refreshing automatically, press F5

1219
text message
On the text, Belfast Cabbie want to know where the Alliance stands on sectarianism. Unsurprisingly, they're very much against it. That moves onto immigration and Mrs Long says we need to be honest about it, that it brings benefits to Northern Ireland and we should take heart that people want to come here. But she adds that we need to look at under pressure communities and how to manage integration.

1217
Naomi Long
That was in 2001 when three Alliance members re-designating as unionists with for 22 minutes. Naomi says: "It was a difficult and painful decision because we felt it was in the interest of the people of NI and wouldn't put the interest of Alliance before that. We were able to sustain the assembly and keep it on track. People may have judged us harshly, but people saw us as a party willing to work with others to make politics work."

1214 There's another caller, James, who says he "really admires her as a politician". He asks "why did the Alliance Party vote to become unionists for a few hours a couple of years ago then voted back again?"

1212 "We want look at the cost of division, to deal with issue how we spend our public money.

"We need to be able to turn out people who attract employment. The chaos that surrounds out education system at the minute isn't doing anyone any justice. People want to invest in Northern Ireland, but the window will close.

"The status of NI is not at stake in this election, but people's quality of life is."

1211
Naomi Long
Mrs Long returns to her key point - if we have services shared across the whole community it will cost less and we will have more money to spend.

1210 We've got our first caller, and it's a regular, Norman from Bangor. He asks about fuel poverty.

1209
Wendy Austin
Wendy asks if Alliance get squeezed between the two big blocks; No says Mrs Long. She says the Alliance vote has been growing over the last few elections. She thinks the public are moving on from tribalism even if the bigger parties have not.

1208 Mrs Long says the main issues are tackling tribalism and separation - the key Alliance messages over the years.

1206 And we're off... Naomi Long says they want to move away from tribal politics and she says a vote for Alliance will reject this. She says the cost of tribalism should be tackled when it comes to efficiency savings.

1156 Maybe you are one of the few people who missed Wednesday's phone-in with Steven Agnew of the Green Party. You can read our coverage here.

1153 Thanks for joining us here. We're limbering up in preparation for Naomi Long's arrival in the Talkback studio in the next few minutes. Ms Long is deputy leader of the Alliance Party. Last June she became lord mayor of Belfast. If you're at a loose end until the programme begins, have a look at our candidate profiles. There are literally hours of fun to be had there, so maybe bookmark the page for later and make sure you're back here at noon.




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