Belfast Telegraph

SDLP's Durkan claims 'widespread' voter fraud in Foyle poll

By Sue Doherty

An SDLP MLA says he believes that voter fraud was "widespread" in Foyle during the general election.

Mark Durkan, the SDLP's veteran MP for the Foyle constituency in Londonderry, lost his seat by just 169 votes to Sinn Fein newcomer Elisha McCallion last Thursday night.

His nephew, Mark H Durkan, was among a delegation that met the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland, Virigina McVeigh on Tuesday, June 13. He passed on concerns, passed on to him by constituents, that their votes had been "stolen" before they arrived at polling stations to cast their ballots.

Read more: Claims of Foyle vote theft mount - SDLP to meet with Electoral Office

After the meeting, Mr Durkan told the BBC that some of his constituents who "are of the generation that marched" for the right to vote, are "horrified, shocked and saddened" to have allegedly been denied their vote due to voter fraud.

While he is focusing on claims of personation, Mr Durkan says he believes that electoral fraud "came in several guises".

He was aware, he added, of 18 alleged cases of personation in his constituency, Foyle, where, he's been told by those who claim to be affected, "voters arrived only to find their vote had been taken by someone of the same name".

'A co-ordinated approach'

The problem, he said, is more than a few isolated incidents. "When you have multiple voters of the same name, it does, in my mind, demonstrate a co-ordinated approach."

Referring to former MLA Eamonn McCann's allegations, made on polling day, that there were breaches of regulations regarding ballot secrecy, Mr Durkan said: "I believe it was widespread."

He added: "This has been going on for a long time and has to be eradicated."

Voter date of birth should be included on the register, Mr Durkan suggested.

He said he will contact the police later this week "to see if they have acted on information forwarded to them by the electoral officers".

When asked to comment, a spokesperson for Sinn Fein said: "No one should be denied the right to vote.

"If anyone is aware of alleged electoral fraud then they should report that and it should be properly investigated."

The PSNI have confirmed that they are investigating a number of complaints. Chief Superintendent Karen Baxter said: "We work closely with the electoral office and, where information becomes available in relation to criminal activity, we take action."

Read more: Police probing vote theft claims after SDLP loses Foyle to Sinn Fein 

A request for comment has been made to the Chief Electoral Officer's office.

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