Irish Republican News · March 26, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Last trick to deny voters

Election officials in the North have been accused of introducing new blocking measures to prevent people being registered to vote for local and Westminster elections in May.

Difficult new registration requirements have removed some 20% of voters from the North’s electoral register, mainly working class and marginalised voters.

The electoral battle will be key in deciding future moves in the peace process. The Dublin and London governments have gone to extreme measures, such as the new registration procedures, to advance the prospects of their favoured nationalist and unionist parties, the SDLP and UUP.

In recent weeks, an intense registration drive has taken place in the mainly republican West Belfast constituency of Gerry Adams to restore votes to residents.

As a result of this 2000 people applied to be put on the register. However, 642 of these have now received letters from the Belfast Electoral office challenging their application.

Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin said the challenges effectively brought back the controversial Electoral Courts from the pages of history.

“We worked for many years to convince the British government to end Electoral Courts because they acted as a disincentive to people to register.

“We welcomed the British government,s decision to end these courts but this latest development is the reintroduction of these courts through the back door.

“The Electoral Office must immediately end this new blocking measure and allow those people who have applied to be registered onto the register.”

Meanwhile, the SDLP appears to have pulled out of the West Tyrone battle in order that hospital campaigner Dr. Ciaran Deeney can have a free run against sitting Sinn Féin MP, Pat Doherty.

“It is interesting to note that it appears the SDLP has thrown in the towel in West Tyrone,” said Mr Doherty. “This is further evidence of the decline in the SDLP and their acceptance that they no longer appeal to the nationalist and republican people of West Tyrone. It would also seem to signify that they are unable to find a credible candidate to fight the election.”

Sinn Féin has also announced that Councillor Billy Leonard, a former member of the RUC and SDLP, has been selected by the party to contest the East Derry seat.

Former Sinn Féin Assembly member Francie Brolly endorsed Cllr Leonard’s selection.

“Billy’s leadership in Coleraine has been inspirational. He is totally committed to all the one Ireland issues such as tourism, the environment, equality and the promotion of the Irish language and culture.

“He works tirelessly in advancing the peace process, on the street at grass root level where it really matters.”

* There are two republican candidates in the election to Udaras na Gaeltachta (the authority for the Irish-speaking areas of the 26 Counties) which takes place next Saturday. They are Tomas O Curraoin of Republican Sinn Féin and Colm O Ceannabhain of Sinn Féin.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News