Belfast Telegraph

Chief Electoral Officer pays tribute to staff after day of drama at West Tyrone by-election

By Gareth Cross

Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea paid tribute to her staff after they endured a day of drama at the West Tyrone by-election on Thursday.

Mrs McVea admitted that staff at a polling station in Greencastle were "scared" during in an incident in which a man was reported to have produced a gun.

Result and reaction: West Tyrone by-election: We've made history.. but lessons to be learned, says new MP Orfhlaith Begley

"There were other people there to vote," she said, "However the other voters didn't even notice the incident which is a tribute to how calmly the staff handled it, though it was a scary incident for them to experience.

"They did a very good job in difficult circumstances.

"Greencastle polling station is in quite a rural area and the police attended and were still conducting enquiries and collecting evidence last night."

Police have since charged a 59-year-old man with offences including carrying a firearm with criminal intent, and possession of a firearm or ammunition in suspicious circumstances.  He is due to appear at Dungannon Magistrates Court later on Friday.

Staff at polling stations also had to deal with a number of allegations of rule breaking surrounding the improper use of electrical devices.

A row broke out between the SDLP and Sinn Fein after a Sinn Fein member was accused of having a kindle in a polling station.

Electronic equipment including items such as mobile phones, Kindles, Ipads are banned from count centres.

Mrs McVea confirmed that she had seen a kindle in use while visiting a count centre and personally asked the offending party to remove it.

The SDLP said they have reported four separate incidents from West Tyrone polling stations to the Electoral Office.

"I'm only aware of two other incidents (apart from the Kindle)," Mrs McVea said.

"One was reported by a member of the public and another by the SDLP."

Mrs McVeigh confirmed the Electoral Office would review all claims made during the by-election.

New MP Órfhlaith Begley, Sinn Féin, centre, pictured with party leaders Michelle O'Neill, left, and Mary-Lou McDonald at the count centre in Omagh Leisure Centre, Co Tyrone. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
New MP Órfhlaith Begley, Sinn Féin, centre, pictured with party leaders Michelle O'Neill, left, and Mary-Lou McDonald at the count centre in Omagh Leisure Centre, Co Tyrone. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
New MP Órfhlaith Begley, Sinn Féin pictured at the count centre in Omagh Leisure Centre with party colleagues, Co Tyrone. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
New MP Órfhlaith Begley, Sinn Féin pictured at the count centre in Omagh Leisure Centre, Co Tyrone. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Tom Buchanan, Democratic Unionist Party at the count centre in Omagh Leisure Centre, Co Tyrone. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Daniel McCrossan, Social Democratic and Labour Party at the count centre in Omagh Leisure Centre, Co Tyrone. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Stephen Donnelly, Alliance Party at the count centre in Omagh Leisure Centre, Co Tyrone. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Órfhlaith Begley, Sinn Féin, centre, arrives with party leaders Mary-Lou McDonald, left, and Michelle ONeill, right, at the count centre in Omagh Leisure Centre, Co Tyrone. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Órfhlaith Begley, Sinn Féin, left, arrives with party leaders Mary-Lou McDonald, centre, and Michelle ONeill, right, at the count centre in Omagh Leisure Centre, Co Tyrone. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Election staff count ballot papers at Omagh Leisure Complex for the West Tyrone Westminster by-election, triggered when the last MP quit amid claims he mocked victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd May 2018 - West Tyrone By-Election 2018 in Northern Ireland Electoral Commission staff start counting votes at the count centre in Omagh Leisure Centre, Co Tyrone. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd May 2018 - West Tyrone By-Election 2018 in Northern Ireland Electoral Commission staff start counting votes at the count centre in Omagh Leisure Centre, Co Tyrone. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
St Mary's Primary School in Strabane where voters have turned out to vote for their MP in the West Tyrone by-election after the seat was vacated by Sinn Fein Barry McElduff Photo: Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
DUP handout photo of DUP leader Arlene Foster with Thomas Buchanan outside Omagh County primary school during voting in the West Tyrone parliamentary by-election. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 3, 2018. Voting is under way in the Westminster by-election triggered when the last MP quit amid claims he mocked victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles. See PA story POLITICS Election WestTyrone. Photo credit should read: DUP/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Daniel McCrossan outside Strabane County primary school after casting his vote in West Tyrone parliamentary by-election, with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and deputy leader Nichola Mallon. Pic: SDLP/PA Wire
Sinn Fein Candidate Órfhlaith Begley pictured as she arrives to vote at Dean Maguirc College, Carrickmore. Photo Credit: Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
Sinn Fein candidate Orfhlaith Begley arriving at a polling station in the Co Tyrone village of Carrickmore.
3rd May 2018 General views of Dean Maguirc College, Carrickmore where voters have turned out to vote for their MP in the West Tyrone By Election after the seat was vacated by Sinn Fein Barry McElduff Mandatory Credit © Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
3rd May 2018 General views of St Mary Primary school in Strabane where voters have turned out to vote for their MP in the West Tyrone By Election after the seat was vacated by Sinn Fein Barry McElduff Mandatory Credit © Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
3rd May 2018 General views of St Mary Primary school in Strabane where voters have turned out to vote for their MP in the West Tyrone By Election after the seat was vacated by Sinn Fein Barry McElduff Mandatory Credit © Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
3rd May 2018 Sinn Fein Candidate Órfhlaith Begley pictured as she arrives to vote at Dean Maguirc College, Carrickmore where she is hoping to replace MP Barry McElduff who stepped down as MP for West Tyrone. Mandatory Credit © Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
3rd May 2018 Sinn Fein Candidate Órfhlaith Begley pictured with mum Deirdre as she arrives to vote at Dean Maguirc College, Carrickmore where she is hoping to replace MP Barry McElduff who stepped down as MP for West Tyrone. Mandatory Credit © Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
3rd May 2018 Sinn Fein Candidate Órfhlaith Begley pictured as she arrives to vote at Dean Maguirc College, Carrickmore where she is hoping to replace MP Barry McElduff who stepped down as MP for West Tyrone. Mandatory Credit © Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

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