The British government has issued electoral forms to voters in the Six Counties which have left tens of thousands of nationalists and republicans without their votes through a new requirement to declare themselves as residents of ‘Northern Ireland’.
Up to 220,000 questionnaires were returned incomplete after nationalists refused to make a declaration unlike any required of voters in Britain or the 26 Counties.
SDLP Upper Bann representative Dolores Kelly said she would be seeking assurances that nationalist voters are not left disenfranchised. She said recent census results have highlighted the “complex nature of identities” in the north and said the question regarding residence should reflect this.
The forms are due to be returned by next week and will be used for European and local government elections next year.
On the insistence of the British government’s Northern Ireland Office, a separate box now asks householders to declare if they have “lived in Northern Ireland for three months prior to 15 October 2013”.
The declaration, which does not feature on electoral canvass forms in Britain, was originally introduced to prevent people living in the the 26 Counties registering to vote north of the border.
A similar question featured on recent census forms, but saw northerners allowed to identify themselves multiply as Irish, British, and/or Northern Irish.
Sinn Fein has urged people to tick the necessary box on the forms to say that they ‘live in northern Ireland’.
Sinn Fein MP Francie Molloy said: “I would urge everyone to complete their forms in full.”