Sinn Féin ‘flouting election rules in North’, says PBP

People Before Profit’s Eamonn McCann to meet electoral office over proxy voter claims

Eamonn McCann claims Sinn Féin election staff were making notes “with gusto” of who had and hadn’t voted. Photograph: Margaret McLaughlin

Eamonn McCann claims Sinn Féin election staff were making notes “with gusto” of who had and hadn’t voted. Photograph: Margaret McLaughlin

 

People Before Profit (PBP) is to meet with the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland (EONI) over what it describes as Sinn Féin’s “flouting of the rules and regulations” at the Westminster election.

Eamonn McCann, Westminster election agent for PBP Foyle candidate Shaun Harkin and a former Stormont MLA, said he was to discuss his concerns with chief electoral officer Virginia McVeigh on Tuesday, and would tell her the organisation “is clearly not up to the job”.

It comes amid claims of voting irregularities in Foyle where Sinn Féin won the seat for the first time on June 8th, defeating SDLP stalwart Mark Durkan by 169 votes.

The SDLP is conducting a ward-by-ward analysis of proxy votes after figures showed the use of such votes was more than 17 times the UK average for the general election in “Sinn Féin-dominated areas” of Derry.

People can apply to vote by proxy – giving someone else their vote to lodge – if they are going to be away, at work or attending a course on the day of the election, or have some other reason, such as a disability, preventing them from attending the polling centre.

Mark Durkan’s nephew SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan met with the police last week to make a formal complaint about alleged proxy vote abuse.

The PSNI said it was “investigating a number of reports of electoral fraud” following referral from the EONI.

On Sunday, Mr McCann said PBP was not speculating on the impact of postal and proxy votes in the constituency as these were issued and recorded by EONI.

“We are not suggesting for a moment – it would be ridiculousness to say – we were deprived of a seat or anything. Neither do we have any doubt that the advance of Sinn Féin was anything other than they got more votes,” he said.

‘Flouted’

However, he claimed the EONI rules and regulations “were flouted on a systematic basis” by Sinn Féin in Foyle from the opening of polls on June 8th.

He claims Sinn Féin election staff were making notes “with gusto” of who had and hadn’t voted, to enable their teams to have a running total and then knock doors to entice people to vote in breach of electoral rules.

“This was an absolutely standard thing going on all over Foyle and possibly other constituencies,” he said.

“Over and over again we discovered the officials in charge at polling stations either didn’t know or refused to implement the rules.”

Mr McCann claimed one PBP polling agent was told if they sat down in the polling station they would have to stay in the room for two hours, and that while this was not an official rule it was “a general consensus”.

“It is the Wild West a far as electoral rules are concerned,” he said.

“The Electoral Office is clearly not up to the job.”

An EONI spokesperson was not immediately available to comment.

A Sinn Féin spokesman accused Mr McCann of “deflection politics” and said all parties, including the SDLP, had encouraged people to utilise the postal and proxy vote service in line with the electoral rules to exercise their right to vote.

“It is disappointing that in the wake of poor election results some parties want to make it even more difficult for people to exercise that right to vote,” he said.

“Sinn Féin has met the electoral office and commission to discuss the serious problem of the thousands of voters arbitrarily struck off the electoral register, thousands of whom were denied the right to vote in the recent elections.”