Northern Ireland news

State Papers: Fraudulent voting common in 1990s but main culprits were not Sinn Féin

Gerry Adams leaves Belfast City Hall after losing his west Belfast Westminster seat to Dr Joe Hendron in 1992

FRAUDULENT voting was common in Northern Ireland in the 1990s but the main culprits were not Sinn Féin, state papers released today reveal.

Following allegations of electoral fraud during the 1992 Westminster election, the NIO estimated that perhaps 50 per cent of the 27,085 postal votes cast 'were fraudulent.'

Officials found that 'fraudulent absent voting' in the elections was a much more significant problem than the traditional 'vote early and often.'

However, despite repeated accusations against republicans, the Chief Electoral Officer at the time, Patrick Bradley informed the NIO that the main culprits were "parties other than Sinn Féin" and added that West Belfast had one of the lowest levels of postal voting.

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The SDLP's Joe Hendron had narrowly claimed the Westminster seat from Gerry Adams in April 1992.

Voting fraud was discussed at a meeting at Stormont on December 17 of that year involving representatives of all the parties except Sinn Féin.

DUP deputy leader, Peter Robinson claimed that both the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP relied heavily on this arrangement and he expressed concerns that, since all candidates got copies of the final postal voting list, 'Sinn Féin had little difficulty in identifying members of the security forces’ who had to work on polling day and were plainly identified on the register.

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In a memo on ‘Electoral Abuse Issues’ dated June 15, 1993, Peter May of the NIO was sceptical of SDLP accusations of electoral abuse against Sinn Féin. He noted that in those areas where Sinn Féin did best at the expense of the SDLP, ‘the SDLP was complaining loudest.' In Derry, the SDLP claimed that 20 cent of the Sinn Féin vote in one ward was ‘stolen’.

Meanwhile, other documents reveal that Martin McGuinness accused the British government of having a "brass neck" for raising issues of disarmament during post ceasefire talks.

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In a meeting with the NIO in December 1994, an official asked Mr McGuinness to leave the past behind him, "what matters was their attitude to the armed struggle in the future."

The Sinn Féin chief negotiator accused the government of having a "brass neck," adding: "What about Bloody Sunday?"

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