Alliance Party leader Naomi Long has said she is “looking forward” to attending the Ireland’s Future event in Belfast this summer.
Ms Long has confirmed she will take part in a discussion event at the Pathway to Change gathering hosted by Ireland’s Future on June 15 at Belfast’s SSE Arena.
The discussion will feature female political leaders including Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald and Irish Labour leader Ivana Bacik.
Ms Long’s plans to attend what will be the biggest Ireland’s Future event in the north to date follows a snub in September 2022 when Alliance declined to take part in the civic nationalist group’s ‘Together We Can’ summit in Dublin’s 3Arena.
Ahead of that gathering, a statement from the party said: “We felt the nature of this event – a rally to endorse a united Ireland – was not an appropriate event for us to participate in. This was explained to the organisers, who understood and respected our decision.”
The decision by Alliance not to take part in the Dublin event was criticised, as they were the only non-unionist mainstream party in Ireland not to be represented.
Ireland’s Future board member Brian Feeney said following the declined invitation that Alliance was “aligning itself with unionists who are sticking their fingers in their ears”.
However, earlier in 2022, Alliance deputy leader and MP Stephen Farry had taken part in a panel discussion event hosted by Ireland’s Future in London. A party statement ahead of that event said: “We are participating in a debate and not endorsing any particular view.”
🚨Naomi Long MLA will participate in the Ireland’s Future event in the SSE Arena in Belfast on 15 June 2024— Ireland's Future - Todhchaí na hÉireann (@IrelandsFuture) January 18, 2024
🚨Naomi will contribute to a panel discussion alongside other female political leaders
🎟️ For tickets please follow the link https://t.co/ZSRJLpdhbC pic.twitter.com/6uIOneRmaF
In an X post on Thursday about the upcoming Belfast event, Ms Long wrote: “Looking forward to taking part in a discussion at the Ireland’s Future event on June 15 at SSE Arena, alongside other female political leaders, to talk about the future.
“While Alliance is not defined by constitutional question, we are happy to take part in constructive debates.”
Ireland’s Future CEO Gerry Carlile said the group was “very happy” to welcome the Alliance leader to the event, which will also see DUP founder Wallace Thompson take part in a panel discussion.
“It is important to continue to expand the conversation on change beyond the traditional pro-united Ireland community,” Mr Carlile said.
“Naomi Long is a political leader who has a significant role to play and the Alliance Party has an important voice as we progress into the coming period. If electoral trends and trajectories continue then it is likely that a border poll will be held in the period around the year 2030.
He added: “It is imperative that the government in Dublin lead on this issue, and once again we take this opportunity to appeal to the government to begin a thorough process of planning and preparing for a border poll.”