Northern Ireland news

Long comes back fighting after health scare during TV debate

The leader's debate panel of Naomi Long, Nigel Dodds, Robin Swann, Michelle O'Neill and Colum Eastwood. Picture by Mal McCann

THE recording of UTV’s leaders’ debate had to be halted yesterday after Naomi Long became unwell.

The Alliance leader, below, was in mid flow during the programme’s afternoon prerecording when she was forced to pause, lowering her head as if about to faint.

However, after a 10 minute break the 45-year-old East Belfast candidate recovered fully and was able to continue, playing an active role in the lively exchanges that followed.

Afterwards, Mrs Long told the media that the episode stemmed from a combination of hot studio lights and the stress from the sudden death of her close friend Mervyn Jones, a Belfast councillor and former Alliance Party treasurer.

Brexit, a border poll and Sinn Féin abstentionism were among the key talking points in the one-hour debate.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, who stepped-in for Arlene Foster, claimed republicans’ failure to take their seats was “helping the Tories”, while Sinn Féin northern leader Michelle O’Neill argued that those attending Westminster failed to stop Article 50 being invoked.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said his party’s MPs had voted against the British government’s “Middle East misadventures”.

Mrs Long said Brexit was far from a certainty, while new Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann argued that it was the Republic, rather then the north, that should seek special EU status. 

How they fared in the UTV debate.

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