Northern Ireland news

Electoral Office 'clerical error' warns Irish citizens in north that they can't vote

Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea apologised for the letter generated by a 'clerical error'

A "CLERICAL error" is being blamed for a batch of letters warning people who identified themselves as Irish that they would not be allowed to cast their vote in forthcoming elections.

At least ten people received letters last month from the Electoral Office which said their change of nationality would impact on their ability to vote.

"As you have changed your nationality changed (sic) from Northern Ireland to Ireland this will affect the elections at which you are entitled to vote," a letter to one voter in Downpatrick, Co Down said.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill branded the correspondence a "clear breach of the Good Friday Agreement" and said she had raised the issue directly with Secretary of State Karen Bradley.

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She said the Electoral Office needed to take immediate steps to "repair the damage it caused" by wrongly warning voters they would lose their right to vote by changing their nationality status to Irish.

The letter from the Electoral Office

"With this correspondence, the Electoral Office are riding roughshod over that agreement and warning that hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens in the north will be disenfranchised," she said.

Ms O'Neill cited a number of other instances where people had been warned erroneously that their vote could be jeopardised.

"Whether they need to provide training to their staff or implement disciplinary measures, the Electoral Office now has a responsibility to repair the damage it caused by wrongly issuing this correspondence," she said.

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Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea apologised for the letters, which she said had been caused by a "clerical error".

"The Electoral Office was made aware of this last week and immediately checked the systems and was able, on the day, to discover that there had been a clerical error in ten instances where a new electronic management system had automatically generated a letter in error over a period of a couple of days," she said.

Ms McVea said those who had received the correspondence were subsequently contacted and the issue rectified.

"We would apologise to those ten people and have reassured the all that at no point were their voting rights impacted," she said.


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