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6 February 2003 Edition

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18,000 Done - Another 170,000 To Do

Sinn Féin's Mitchel McLaughlin says news that an additional 18,000 voters have been put on the electoral register means that the Electoral Office still has almost 170,000 voters to get registered.

"I obviously welcome the fact that these 18,000 voters have now been registered but there remains a massive amount of work still to be done," he said. "If we project these figures forward, it means that by the March cutoff for the Assembly elections, there will still be at least 150,000 people unable to vote.

"Electoral registration, or more accurately non-registration, is a massive issue that has to be dealt with in a focused manner. Disenfranchising tens of thousands of people is no way to tackle allegations of electoral fraud.

"Sinn Féin met with the Chief Electoral Officer, Denis Stanley, last week and outlined a number of suggestions that could be taken to address the problem. Those now need to be implemented.

"At the same time I am calling on people to take responsibility for making sure they are on the register. If you are in any doubt contact your local Council, Electoral Office or Sinn Féin Centre for assistance.

"In Derry we have the added dimension of when the plebiscite takes place on the name change that it will be based on the electoral register and if you're not on the register your opinion won't count."

Minister's reply is offensive

South Armagh Assembly member Connor Murphy says he is disappointed and annoyed at the content of Minister Martin Cullen TD's response to a motion on Presidential Voting Rights for Irish citizens living in the Six Counties, passed by Newry and Mourne District Council.

"Minister Cullen's response was a misrepresentation of the content of the motion and an obvious attempt to divert attention away from the commitment of the Irish government to address the rights of Irish citizens living in the Six Counties to participate in the political life of the nation," he said.

After the Agreement, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern instructed the All-Party Committee on the Oireachtas and the Constitution to consider how the people of the Six Counties might play a "more active part in national political life".

The Committee recognised in its recommendations a number of areas where Northern Representation could be accommodated.

"We are disappointed that Minster Cullen's interpretation of the motion passed by Newry and Mourne bears no resemblance to the actual content of the motion, which made no reference whatsoever to "Emigrant Voting Rights".

"The issues of Emigrant Voting Rights and voting rights in Presidential Elections for residents of the Six Counties are two separate issues and must be dealt with as such. Irish citizens living in the Six Counties will find it extremely offensive that an Irish minister should refer to them as emigrants in their own country."


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