Belfast Telegraph

DUP leader takes on election agent role for six candidates

By David O'Dornan

You would be forgiven for thinking that being the leader of Northern Ireland's biggest political party at a time of unprecedented political turmoil would mean Arlene Foster has enough on her plate.

But despite challenges such as the long-running Stormont stand-off, a looming RHI Inquiry report and the uncertainty over Brexit, Mrs Foster has added to her workload.

She is acting as the election agent for six candidates bidding to win seats on Fermanagh and Omagh Council in the May local elections.

But it is not just a case of Mrs Foster leading from the front - she is just one of 23 MLAs signed up as an election agent. That represents just over a quarter of all of Stormont's elected politicians.

The MLAs are acting as agents for a total of 56 candidates and those from the DUP are taking on the most. Former Education Minister Peter Weir is responsible for 10 candidates alone.

In all there are 12 DUP politicians acting as election agents, including high profile figures such as Christopher Stalford, Carla Lockhart and Jim Wells, while the SDLP have four, including Dolores Kelly and Claire Hanna.

Sinn Fein have three, the best known being John O'Dowd, with both the UUP and the Green Party each with two. Green leader Clare Bailey is one and her predecessor Steve Agnew is steering the campaign for four candidates. Roy Beggs and Andy Allen are the two Ulster Unionists.

Alliance is the biggest local party not to have any of their current MLAs working as election agents.

The Electoral Office describes the role of the election agent as "very important" and "the person responsible in law for the proper management" of a candidate's campaign.

It states: "In particular, your election agent is responsible for the financial management of your campaign and for ensuring that declarations and returns of election expenses are properly completed and delivered to the Deputy Returning Officer within the statutory deadlines.

"The role of election agent is very important, therefore the appointment of your agent should be carefully considered.

"Your election may be invalidated if your election agent does not promptly and correctly perform their duties, and in some cases there could be criminal sanctions for both you and your agent."

Belfast Telegraph


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