Saturday 25 January 2020

Police look into SDLP claims of stolen votes

Stock picture
Stock picture

Leona O'Neill

Police have confirmed that they are investigating allegations of vote-theft in Foyle, the Derry constituency where Sinn Féin took the seat from the SDLP in last week's Westminster election.

The SDLP's Mark H Durkan has claimed that the number of alleged victims who have spoken out about vote-stealing is just the "tip of the iceberg".

But Sinn Féin has dismissed the claims of electoral fraud in Foyle - where it snatched the seat away from the SDLP with a majority of just 169 votes - as "an effort by political opponents to explain away their rejection by the electorate".

Mr Durkan met with the North's chief electoral officer, Virginia McVea, yesterday, bringing forward what he said was evidence of "vote-stealing".

He said: "I believe that there are numerous people out there who have found themselves in similar situations that have not reported it and I would urge them to do so.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. I commend the bravery of those who have spoken out already."

The Electoral Office said that Foyle had the highest number of 'pink slips' for Northern Ireland in the general election, with 12 cases being recorded in comparison to just four in the 2016 assembly elections.

Pink slip voting is when people who have been prevented from voting are offered a tendered ballot paper instead, a pink slip. It does not count, but may help to estimate the scale of fraud.

Ms McVea said that the Electoral Office follows up on each instance and that a "handful" of cases have been handed over to the PSNI.

But a Sinn Féin spokesperson dismissed the SDLP's allegations as merely an excuse for failure.

"There is always an effort by political opponents to explain away their rejection by the electorate," it said in a statement.

"Sinn Féin got more than 238,000 votes in the recent election, which is a huge endorsement of our platform of standing for equality, rights and Irish unity."

Irish Independent

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