Moygashel polling station decision appealed by UUP MLA

Howard Primary School in Moygashel, Co Tyrone
Howard Primary School in Moygashel, Co Tyrone

The decision to shut a primary school polling station in the UK’s most closely contested electoral constituency is being appealed by Tom Elliott.

The Ulster Unionist MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, said the removal of Howard Primary School in Moygashel – where even a handful of votes could be crucial to the overall outcome – was unacceptable.

In January this year, the Electoral Office of Northern Ireland (EONI) said the decision was taken due to concerns over the appearance of loyalist flag protestors at the school on polling day 2014.

Announcing his decision, chief electoral officer Graham Shields said: “My priority is to ensure that all voters, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to vote in a peaceful and safe environment.”

On Monday, a spokesman for the Electoral Commission confirmed it had received a letter seeking to appeal the chief electoral officer’s decision in relation to Howard school.

“We are dealing with this matter as quickly as we can, however we will be giving the matter careful consideration and taking into account all relevant information,” he said.

However, Mr Elliott said voters in the Moygashel area had been “extremely shabbily treated” by EONI and that “Sinn Fein appear to have deliberately exaggerated” the level of concern.

He added: “While I will fight tirelessly to retain the polling station ... I would urge the voters no matter what to use their vote on the 7th of May.

“We go to visit some polling stations and there are numerous tricolours flying around them and a large congregation of Sinn Fein members outside, sometimes in a caravan with tricolours draped over it, but people from a unionist community are still expected to go in and vote in those areas.”

Fermanagh and South Tyrone has the narrowest majority of the 650 Westminster election constituencies.

At the last general election in 2010, Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew polled only four more votes (21,304) than agreed unionist candidate Rodney Connor (21,300).

This time around the two main unionist parties have not yet been able to agree over a united candidate.