Beyond the binary: Can Alliance capture the North’s middle ground?

The Alliance Party, which represents a growing cohort of voters who are neither unionist nor nationalist, could find itself in second place after the Northern elections next May. Its leader, Naomi Long, says change is coming

Northern Ireland’s justice minister Naomi Long: ‘We must fully include those of us who don’t designate as unionist or nationalist. We cannot become second-class citizens in our own home.’ Picture: Matt Mackey/Press Eye

Naomi Long’s story is all too familiar. As she grew up during the height of the Troubles in a loyalist community in east Belfast, Long’s family tried to cocoon her from the conflict as much as possible. But the potential for violence still permeated the fabric of her youth, threatening not only physical injury, but also the long sentence of political radicalisation.

“It was really only when I went to university in the early 1990s that I experienced integration in any meaningful way. I was mixing with people all across Belfast, with people from the north and south of the island, and further afield,” she told the Business Post.