Flag row partly behind sharp rise in votes cast, says Assembly member

Tom Elliott
Tom Elliott

Although little more than half the eligible population bothered to cast a European vote, it was still a sizeable increase on the previous such election in Northern Ireland.

All told, there were 635,927 votes cast, compared with 488,891 the last time around – spelling an increase in turnout from a fairly dismal 42.8 per cent to 51.8 per cent.

UUP MLA Tom Elliott said the removal of the Union Flag from City Hall had been a wake-up call for some.

He told the News Letter: “People are saying now: ‘Look, if we want a result that is positive to our people, the unionist community, we must go out and vote for those who are going to represent us’.

“Clearly the voting trends and turnouts were going down for the last number of elections. Maybe they’re on the increase. That’s good for the UUP. It’s in our interest to make sure that trend continues.”

Chief electoral officer Graham Shields said it was the biggest increase he could recall, and said: “It’s probably representative of the fact we have the European election – which historically have attracted not a very high turnout – combined with the local council elections; in this case, elections to new councils.”