‘Incredible mistake’ almost halted election

Election Diary 2014
Election Diary 2014

A gaffe by electoral officials meant that on Tuesday night voters in Clogher Valley faced the prospect of not being able to vote for their councillors.

That was because the deputy returning officer for the area, John McClaughlin, initially released a statement of persons nominated which contained six candidates for six vacancies.

However, it quickly became apparent that the SDLP candidate, Sharon McAleer, had erroneously been omitted and the list was reissued with seven candidates.

Ms McAleer is the sister of Gerry McGeough, the former IRA man who in 2011 was convicted of the attempted murder of Dungannon DUP councillor Sammy Brush.

The News Letter attempted to contact the deputy returning officer, who is also chief executive of Magherafelt District Council. However, a member of staff said that he was in “a special meeting in Belfast” and could not be contacted.

Clogher Valley DUP councillor Wills Robinson said: “It’s an incredible mistake to make. Electoral staff are not infallible but something like this should be double-checked.”

More than 900 are contesting 462 seats

A total of 906 candidates will contest the 462 council seats to be decided on May 22.

The most candidates in a single District Electoral Area (DEA) will be in Ormiston in east Belfast, where 19 hopefuls are contesting seven seats.

The fewest candidates will be in Clogher Valley where just seven candidates are standing for six seats.

Councillors elected to the new ‘super councils’ will operate in shadow form for almost a year before taking control next spring.

Schulz urges a vote for Attwood

The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, was in Belfast yesterday to give his support to fellow socialist Alex Attwood.

Mr Schulz, who is a candidate to succeed Jose Manuel Barroso as president of the European Commission, told the SDLP launch event that the party had “a proud history in Northern Ireland” and said that the Province’s peace process was a European success story.

Recalling the changes in Europe over recent decades, the pro-EU politician, who was born in Germany in 1955, said that he had been “born into peace and raised in prosperity”.

But he said that in more recent years many European governments had decided to deliver “pain for people and billions for banks”.

SDLP fielding 119 council candidates

The SDLP launched its election campaign yesterday, revealing that the party will field 119 council candidates across the Province.

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell vowed that the party would fight “tooth and nail” for each seat and said Northern Ireland needed a strongly pro-EU MEP.

European candidate Alex Attwood denounced what he described as “the headlong rush to an in/out referendum” on the UK’s EU membership.

He said that although past European elections in Northern Ireland had not been fought on European issues, “this election needs to be about Europe”.