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Wednesday 18 September 2019

Fresh poll fraud fears as another 'full' house is vacant

Michael Brennan, Political Correspondent

THE validity of the local election results has been cast into further doubt after the discovery of another empty house which was given as the address for multiple immigrant voters.

The four-bedroom house in Longford town was supposedly the dwelling place for eight immigrant voters, but it has had a "for sale" sign for the past month and neighbours report that it has been empty since at least Christmas.

There were 1,921 people added to the supplementary register in Longford town council area and almost half of them (961) were foreign nationals.

The revelation comes after the gardai launched an investigation into suspected electoral fraud in Monaghan, where more than 2,000 people were added to the supplementary register before polling day.

The Irish Independent revealed that seven immigrants had been registered to vote at a house that had been empty for almost three years.

The paper visited the house at the centre of the fresh revelations in Longford last week. At Number 72, Grian Ard, Ardnacasa, there were weeds growing in the front garden and an overgrown lawn at the rear. Varma Bheemuck, a fast-food worker from Mauritius who lives opposite, said there had been no signs of life in the house since he moved in last October. "I never see a light on," he said.

Yet the names of the eight immigrant voters with the address of "No 72, Grian Ard, Ardnacasa" were added to the supplementary register for the local elections in Longford just before the May deadline.

A search of the land registry revealed that the owners of the house were Cyril and Joan Naughton, who bought the house from Longford Co Council in 2003. Mr Naughton, a local businessman, said he had no knowledge about the occupancy of the house and referred all queries to his wife Joan. She did not return calls seeking comment. There is no suggestion they were aware that the house was listed in the supplementary register as having eight voters living there.

Gardai confirmed to the 'Longford Leader' newspaper last week that they had set up an investigation into claims about fraudulent voters on the supplementary register and claims that voters were paid to vote. Questions have also been raised about the late addition to the supplementary register of more than 50 asylum seekers living in the Richmond Court hostel in Longford town.

Canvassing

The hostel is owned by Fine Gael's James Keogh, who was re-elected to Longford town council. But Mr Keogh said he had not carried out any canvassing of those staying in his asylum centre.

"We're very strict. It's run as a business. It's definitely not me that put them on the register," he said.

Two asylum seekers living in the Richmond Court Hostel spoke out to dismiss local rumours that residents there had been paid money to vote. Robert Munkoh and Nii Abladey, both from Ghana, said they had wanted to take part in the democratic process.

"Your vote is sacred. I don't sell my vote," Mr Abladey said.

All of those added to the register had to provide a form stamped by the gardai declaring they were resident at their address. But Longford Co Council director of elections Gerry Gillen said it had not been possible to carry out further checks in the short time before the supplementary register was published.

"We didn't go out to see if a house was occupied. You're doing the best that you can in the circumstances," he said.

He confirmed that a marked copy of the electoral register -- showing who had actually voted -- would be provided to the gardai if required.

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