Northern Ireland

Long hits out at 'point-scoring' on Manchester attack

Naomi Long
Image caption Naomi Long said the Manchester attack is 'not our tragedy, it's Manchester's tragedy' and people in NI should offer Manchester solidarity and support

The Alliance Party leader criticised Northern Ireland political parties engaging in "political point-scoring" over the Manchester attack as "really distasteful".

Naomi Long said she understood the perspective of those who criticised Sinn Féin for condemning Monday's suicide bombing, whilst not condemning an IRA attack in 1996.

But the Alliance leader said that if republicans had not condemned this week's atrocity they would have been condemned for not doing so.

Now they have they are condemned for hypocrisy, she added.

'Solidarity and support'

Mrs Long told the BBC's Inside Politics programme she wanted every politician in Northern Ireland to be in a position to condemn every violent incident - past or present.

She said the Manchester Arena attack was "not our tragedy, it's Manchester's tragedy" and people in Northern Ireland should respect the feelings of the people of Manchester and offer them solidarity and support.

Mrs Long expressed her "full confidence" in the PSNI Chief Constable to handle the latest security situation, noting that the PSNI has a greater number of routinely armed officers than other forces, which may have helped George Hamilton reach the conclusion he does not need any extra military resources.

Mrs Long denied that her party's support for a second referendum on any eventual Brexit deal is a thinly disguised attempt to reverse last year's EU referendum.

She reminded the UUP, who have criticised the Alliance's stance, that democracy is a process and not just an event.

She criticised the Conservatives, arguing that the narrow vote in favour of leaving the EU should have led to a moderate approach to Brexit, not what she described as Theresa May's charge towards a "recklessly hard Brexit".

'Irish language denigrated'

Explaining why Alliance has shifted its policy from supporting a Languages Act which would have covered Irish, Ulster Scots and languages spoken by ethnic minorities towards a specific Irish Language Act, Mrs Long said her party had witnessed the Irish language being denigrated and used as a political football - and concluded it required protection.

In 2008, an Alliance MLA said any Irish Language Act should come at "no expense to the public purse".

Questioned about this the Alliance leader insisted she would not sign up to such an act "with a blank cheque" and the cost of any new measures should be "minimal".

Mrs Long said no one wanted to get a letter in Irish from their local hospital telling them their operation has been cancelled for a third time.

However, the Alliance leader complained that too much time is spent concentrating on the cost of an Irish language Act and not enough examining its potential benefits for tourism and community building.

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