Belfast Telegraph

Ten people told changing nationality to Irish could affect ability to vote in Northern Ireland

Electoral Office blames 'clerical error'

The letter was sent to a Downpatrick man.
The letter was sent to a Downpatrick man.

The Electoral Office has been criticised for telling a Northern Ireland man changing his nationality could affect the elections he could vote in.

The Downpatrick man was sent a letter from the organisation, which runs elections, after he registered as an elector.

It said as he had changed his nationality from "Northern Ireland to Ireland this will affect the elections at which you are entitled to vote".

It has emerged that the letter was sent to at least 10 people.

Despite repeated attempts by the Belfast Telegraph to contact the Electoral Office on Thursday it did not respond.

Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland Virginia McVea said the letters had been sent out due to a "clerical error".

"The Electoral Office was made aware of this last week and immediately checked the systems and was able, on the day, to discover that there had been a clerical error in ten instances where a new electronic management system had automatically generated a letter in error over a period of a couple of days," she told The Irish News.

Sinn Fein said the letter suggested the person could not vote in Westminster elections saying the letter breached the Good Friday Agreement.

Party vice president Michelle O'Neill added: "The Electoral Office are riding roughshod over that agreement and warning that hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens in the north will be disenfranchised.

“I raised this matter directly with the British Secretary of State Karen Bradley who has confirmed that the Electoral Office warning is entirely erroneous.

Virginia McVea
Virginia McVea

“Unfortunately, this is not the only example of misinformation from the Electoral Office which has issued other false warnings to electors in different areas.

“Whether they need to provide training to their staff or implement disciplinary measures, the Electoral Office now has a responsibility to repair the damage it caused by wrongly issuing this correspondence.”

Ms McVea said that those who received the letters had been contacted and the issue explained.

"We would apologise to those 10 people and have reassured them all that at no point were their voting rights impacted," she said.

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