David Ford said: “Naomi Long is ushering in a new era in politics in Northern Ireland. She has defeated the leader of the biggest party and the First Minister of Northern Ireland. She has made history and she is a beacon of hope for Northern Ireland.
“This result is both a triumph for Alliance and for Naomi personally. She fought a positive campaign based on years of hard work for the people of East Belfast.
“These excellent results show Alliance has move onto the next level. Based on these figures we are very well placed to significantly increase our representation in the Assembly next year. Alliance is in the Executive already and we will be looking to gain another Executive seat.
“This election heralded a change in the emphasis of the campaigning in Northern Ireland. People wanted to see parties showing vision on job creation, uniting our community and building the economy. Alliance has done that while the other parties have focused on tribal pacts.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who voted for us, all our teams of activists, candidates and staff for their hard w during the campaign.
“The people of East Belfast have spoken and they have said they want a new politics. Naomi represents a new generation and a bright, shared future for all of Northern Ireland.”