Northern Ireland news

Jude Collins apologises for 'my crassness and any hurt' he caused Alliance leader Naomi Long

Naomi Long pictured speaking at the Alliance spring conference in Belfast over the weekend. Picture by Arthur Allison/ Pacemaker

COMMENTATOR Jude Collins has apologised for "my crassness and any hurt" he caused following his comments about Alliance leader Naomi Long.

Writing about Brexit in the wake of the Alliance's Party conference the political commentator took aim at the East Belfast MLA's appearance.

However he faced a backlash on social media after publishing a blog in which he remarked about Mrs Long's "weight problem" and speculated she be suffering from a medical condition.

"They say a bald man will never become President of the US again; Naomi’s weight problem - I’m assuming it’s a medical condition - is what hits you between the eyes when she comes on TV," he wrote.

"And I have no doubt that it’s a worrying thing for her, and not just in terms of public image.

"But such is the Alliance leader’s fluency of speech, it’s not too hard to focus on what’s being said, not how she looks."

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Mrs Long hit back at his remarks and said Mr Collins had "no right to speculate" about her health adding that the comments were evidence "of his misogyny as well as his lack of manners".

The Alliance leader received support on social media with many people criticising Mr Collins for his remarks.

Jude Collins has faced strong criticism over his blog

Last night he said he had removed the offending paragraph after "a multitude of people have hurried to tell me how obnoxious my (passing) comments on the Alliance Party leader were".

"I’ve gone back and looked at what I said and I can see that what I wrote could well have been hurtful to Naomi," he said.

"Accordingly, I’ve removed that paragraph from the blog and have no hesitation in apologising to the Alliance party leader for my crassness and any hurt this may have caused her.

"I hope she will accept that apology.

"The more general point that I clumsily tried to make, that the audio-visual media and television in particular pay a lot of attention to image as well as sound, remains undeniable."

He added: "I'd emphasise that the above isn’t an attempt to slide away from my regret over my paragraph on Naomi. That was bad judgement and bad taste, and I shouldn’t have written it. Mea culpa".

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