Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

SF slams legal challenge to poll win

Independent candidate Rodney Connor
Rodney Connor has launched a judicial challenge against the Fermanagh and South Tyrone election result
Independent Unionist candidate Rodney Connor concedes victory to Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew who won by four votes

Sinn Fein has accused unionist unity candidate Rodney Connor of being a bad loser as a court battle looms over “how the west was won”.

Mr Connor confirmed yesterday that he would be proceeding with a legal challenge over the Fermanagh/South Tyrone result, which he lost by four votes.

He travelled to Belfast yesterday, accompanied by solicitor James Cooper and MLA Tom Elliott, to hand in papers at the High Court.

Michelle Gildernew was declared MP after out-polling Mr Connor by 21,304 votes to 21,300 — following three recounts.

But concerns were raised over alleged discrepancies in the number of votes cast, with reports of up to 36 “unaccounted” ballot papers.

The Electoral Office has refused to provide a copy of the Verification Statement presented to candidates on May 7, which is said to indicate additional voting papers in two boxes.

It is the second time in nine years that the result of the Fermanagh/South Tyrone seat has been challenged through the courts.

Last night Ms Gildernew, who has held the seat since 2001, said she wasn’t concerned by the challenge, accusing Mr Connor of not understanding the rules.

“That is democracy and the first- past-the-post system that means the person with the most votes is returned as the winner,” she said.

“I appreciate Mr Connor may find that hard to accept, but that is the rule we were all playing by.

“Politics has already moved on from the election and I am now totally focused on the real issues affecting people’s lives, principal amongst them protecting frontline services from the cuts being imposed by Mr Connor’s allies in the British Tories.

“As far as I am concerned the people of Fermanagh/South Tyrone have spoken and returned me as their MP.”

But Mr Connor has said he is confident the result will be declared void.

“I am certainly looking forward to being successful in our legal challenge,” he said.

“I feel very strongly that the people of Fermanagh/South Tyrone should have representation on the floor of the House of Commons.

“Unfortunately, for different reasons, I believe we have been denied that opportunity and that right.

“This (challenge) is now the first step to try and achieve that objective.”

An Electoral Office spokesperson said: “In view of the possible legal challenge no comment will be made on this matter.”

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