Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein and SDLP in war of words over electronics at West Tyrone election count

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

A war if words has erupted after the SDLP accused a Sinn Fein election agent of using electronic equipment at a count centre in Strabane.

Party officers were at the centre as part of today's West Tyrone by election.

Electronic equipment including mobile phones, Kindles, Ipads etc are banned from count centres.

Sinn Fein's Órfhlaith Begley, SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan, DUP MLA Thomas Buchanan, the Alliance Party's Stephen Donnelly and the UUP's Chris Smyth are battling it out to become the new MP for West Tyrone.

The by-election was called after Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff resigned after posing with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill Massacre in which 10 protestant workmen were shot dead. The polls close at 10pm on Thursday with a resulted expected early on Friday morning. 

Sinn Féin Election Agent Barry McColgan branded the claims "spurious and pathetic".

“One of our election workers was in a polling station early this morning reading a Kindle e-reader," he said.

“He had sought and received permission from the electoral staff on duty to use the e-reader and was openly reading an e-book for two hours.

“For the SDLP to subsequently claim that this amounts to electoral fraud is as spurious as it is pathetic.

“In fact, it has been confirmed that one of the SDLP representatives who raised the complaint was not a named polling agent and was therefore breaching electoral law by being in the building.

“If anyone has questions to answer about this incident, it is the SDLP.”

The Deputy Returning Officer at the count centre has confirmed that a Sinn Fein polling agent was using a Kindle in Strabane this morning and was asked to remove it, which they complied with.

SDLP West Tyrone Election Agent Simon Ashleysaid that it is absolutely essential that electoral rules are fully enforced and Sinn Fein should remember that no-one is above the law.

“The Sinn Fein Election Agent Barry McColgan has blatantly got his facts wrong," he said.

“It is absolutely essential that electoral law is fully enforced and Sinn Fein should remember that no-one is above the law. Sinn Fein know that the use of any electronic item is prohibited inside a polling station.

“The SDLP has reported four separate incidents from West Tyrone polling stations today to the Electoral Office, including the use of mobile phones by polling agents. Any member of the public who sees electronic equipment being used inside polling stations including mobile phones, laptops and tablets should report it immediately.

“Sinn Fein should distance itself from Barry’s comments if they believe in fair and democratic elections.”

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