Irish Republican News · May 4, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Election push comes to shove
Election push comes to shove
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Sinn Fein has attacked the “blanket denial” of postal and proxy vote applications by the Electoral Office in some areas of the North.

Some proxy votes were rejected for what Sinn Fein said were petty reasons, such as voters omitting or including their second (given) name, or signatures which were slightly different to those used previously.

The trend was particularly pronounced in West Tyrone, Mid-Ulster, Foyle and Fermanagh/South Tyrone, according to Fermanagh Sinn Fein Councillor Thomas O’Reilly.

He said his party had been “inundated with complaints” from angry voters who have been denied the right to vote despite providing the Electoral Office with the evidence they were asked for to validate their postal/proxy vote application.

“For example, we have examples of people who will be away on holiday on Election Day and who have provided the Electoral Office with documentary evidence such a flight and accommodation details. Despite this, they have been told that there is not sufficient evidence to grant a proxy or postal vote.

“We have countless examples of people who have applied for proxy/postal votes for medical reasons and who are housebound and despite having their applications validated by their GP or other professionally qualified medical personnel, they have also been told that there is not insufficient evidence to grant their application.”

He said there was no appeals mechanism to contest these highly arbitrary decisions.

“Serious questions now arise about the handling of this issue by the Chief Electoral Officer Douglas Bain,” he said.

“Incredibly, when speaking on radio this week, Douglas Bain himself acknowledged that the vast vast majority of applications that had been denied were entirely legitimate.”

The issue has compounded Sinn Fein fears that a low turnout could hit its vote disproportionately in Thursday’s Westminster election.

Meanwhile, the public dispute on the two principal issues between the two main nationalist parties has continued this week.

While Sinn Fein attacked the SDLP’s refusal to agree joint nationalist candidates in some areas to combat a combined unionist effort, the SDLP has challenged Sinn Fein over its continued refusal to sit at the Westminster parliament in London.

“We don’t attend Westminster as a matter of principle,” said Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.

“We’re also bringing powers from London to Ireland. The other parties don’t attend and their record is very, very clear. They haven’t been part of the big votes; their attendance is within the worst of the 646 MPs,” Mr Adams said.

MORE POWERS NEEDED

Mr Adams urged all parties in the region to unite against cuts to public services in the North, which the British Conservative Party under David Cameron has already publicly vowed to implement.

He described politicians in the Six Counties as “accountants” with control over fiscal policy retained by London. He said greater powers need to be granted to the Stormont Assembly in Belfast.

“What we need to do is to unite here and I want to appeal to the other parties, to the SDLP and to both unionist parties, to stop the rhetoric about opposing cuts and to join with us and be led by Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson to face down the next British Government and making sure that we get a proper subvention and arguing for fiscal powers and for the levers of economic control to be here so that we can plan our economy and stop the rhetoric about opposing cuts while they’re supporting Tories in both Fermanagh and South Tyrone and in other constituencies”, he told ITV.

Asked about the spending cuts that Irish politicians will likely have to implement at the behest of London in the coming months, Mr Adams said Sinn Fein was “not contemplating cutting front-line services”, but would instead “go for efficiencies, get rid of the fat cats, deal with the bureaucracy”.

Mr Adams said it was time the Six Counties planned their “own economy; work it out across this island, go for the harmonisation of corporation tax, go for proper jobs, get the banks to loan to small businesses, and build the economy”.

ALL-IRELAND CAMPAIGN

Sinn Fein said its activists and representatives from across the island, including its TDs and Senator, had been playing a full part in the party’s election campaign.

Speaking as he prepared to spend the weekend in his neighbouring counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone where he is canvassing on behalf of his colleague, the North’s Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew, Sinn Fein Dail leader and Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghin O Caolain said:

“In Fermanagh/South Tyrone the Orange Order has worked behind the scenes to advance a political agenda to take the Westminster seat away from the voters who elected a Sinn Fein MP.

“The Fermanagh/South Tyrone seat is very symbolic for republicans throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. It is the seat won by Bobby Sands in 1981 when he was on Hunger Strike in Long Kesh. It is the seat subsequently won by Owen Carron and it is the seat won by Michelle Gildernew.

“The effort, at the behest of the Orange Order, to replace a republican woman Minister with a Tory, is all about turning back the clock on the political progress that has been made in recent years. Republicans from across Ireland are determined to play their part in ensuring that this does not succeed.”

Louth TD Arthur Morgan was also canvassing in the South Down constituency on behalf of Education Minister Caitriona Ruane. Ms Ruane is contesting the closely fought constituency against SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie in the seat being vacated by the SDLP’s Eddie McGrady Sinn Fein’s other main hope of a gain is in the North Belfast constituency, where Gerry Kelly hopes to secure enough SDLP votes to make a breakthrough against the DUP’s Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds.

Mr Adams strongly defended Sinn Fein’s record over the past five years.

“We have delivered on a whole range of issues. We brought about events which people said was not possible,” he said in reference to the new power-sharing administration and the devolution of policing and justice powers brought about by the St Andrews and Hillsborough agreements.

“We want to bring that energy and that vision and that strategic application and determination into dealing with the economy. We’re looking for peace, we’re looking for jobs, we’re looking for equality and we’re looking for unity.”

STUMP-OFF

The two main unionist parties have also continued to swap blows as their campaign moved into its closing days.

Ulster Unionist Upper Bann candidate Harry Hamilton said he could see no difference between Sinn Fein’s demand for negotiations with the Government over the North’s block grant and the DUP’s insistence it will exploit a hung parliament scenario.

“The DUP and Sinn Fein want to negotiate with Number 10, Conservatives and unionists are fighting to get into Number 10 -- this is the fundamental difference at this election,” he said.

The DUP’s William McCrea, however, said UUP leader Reg Empey had ducked out of a BBC interview because he “was terrified of being caught on tape trying to explain his plan to slash the Northern Ireland block grant and sack teachers, nurses and classroom assistants”.

Meanwhile, the Irish Republican Socialist party (IRSP) in Derry have given their support to People Before Profit election candidate Eamonn McCann.

In the latest edition of the IRSP’s local newsletter, ‘Workers Republic,’ the party describes the veteran socialist as “the only credible alternative”.

© 2010 Irish Republican News