Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Election chief defends procedures at controversial Fermanagh count

Michelle Gildernew held onto her seat in Fermanagh and South Tyrone
Michelle Gildernew held onto her seat in Fermanagh and South Tyrone

The counting of votes in Fermanagh/South Tyrone on election night was efficient and accurate the chief electoral officer has said.

Douglas Bain was giving evidence as a three-day legal challenge into Sinn Fein’s four-vote win ended in Dungannon.

Mr Bain denied vote counting was rushed, and defended his decision not to hold a fourth recount despite Michelle Gildernew’s slender majority. The case concluded yesterday afternoon, with judgment reserved.

The Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, who heard the case with Mr Justice Gillen, said they would consider the evidence and make their decision “promptly”.

They could order a recount, overturn the result or force a by-election.

Mr Connor later said he was satisfied with his petition.

“I think we were right to take the action we did,” he said. “My legal team have handled it exceptionally well and we now await the decision of the court.

“I certainly believe that the need for proper representation for the people of Fermanagh/ South Tyrone is as strong now as the day I put myself forward for this election. I feel strongly that people here deserve representation and I would certainly give them that representation – where it’s needed, now more than ever – at Westminster.”

Ms Gildernew insisted she had been properly elected.

“We’ve heard the evidence and I think many people will agree there was nothing to convince us that we haven’t returned the right MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone,” she said. “Of course the judges have a series of options available to them, so for now we will just be patient and see what they have to say.”

The court heard three extra votes were found in ballot boxes.

Judgment is expected in weeks.

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