16 November 2006 Edition
Voter registration Shambles reflects government priorities
All republicans urged - register to vote now
Sinn Féin National Director of Elections Pat Doherty spoke this week to ARAN FOLEY about the urgent need to get Sinn Féin supporters onto the electoral register in the 26 Counties and about the party's approach to forthcoming elections there.
Sinn Féin National Director of Elections Pat Doherty MP has urged party activists across the 26 Counties to ensure that republican voters are registered in weeks ahead. His call came amid growing controversy over the 26 County government's implementation of reform of the electoral register.
Doherty said that the shambolic manner in which the government has carried the recent voter registration campaign is starkly apparent across the state.
"We know that the guidelines set out by the Department were not followed in terms of calling and writing to the houses from feed back we are getting. This situation was allowed to develop over a number of years as funding was cut from the councils which used to have responsibility for updating the register and nothing was put in place allowing the shambles we now face to occur.
"If the same amount of organisation that went into the recent census was put into rectifying this problem we would not now be in this position. I think the fact that it wasn't is a reflection of the government's political priorities.
"We have been through all of this in the Six Counties and the overwhelming evidence is that any confusion about the registration process impacts disproportionately on the urban working class - not that there wont be problems in rural areas also.
"We have instructed all of our activists through the party structures to approach this issue in a systematic and comprehensive way.
"I want to take this opportunity to appeal to all republicans to register. You can do so by calling in to your local post office or library. Alternatively you can log on to www.checktheregister.com. There is some urgency to this as the deadline is for 25 November said the MP.
On Sinn Féin efforts on the ground to ensure that republican voters are registered, Doherty said that in many ways this can be seen as the first canvass of the 26 County election.
Asked about Sinn Féin's approach to that election Doherty said: "Firstly we think of all elections in terms of 61 constituencies, - that is the 43 constituencies in the South and the 18 in the Six Counties. Our approach could be best summed up by the phrase unity and equality.
"If there are elections in the Six counties this March Sinn Féin will fight them vigorously with the aim of increasing our mandate. It will also be an opportunity to present our policies in a broader sense with an eye on upcoming elections in the South. Much of our policy is within an all - Ireland framework, particularly in crucial areas such as health, education, infrastructure and the economy", he said.
Sinn Féin will hope to expand the geographical spread of elected representation at Dáil level. Doherty believes that nothing can be taken for granted in terms of an election but it is a fact that Sinn Féin support is consistently going up in all of the constituencies it has stood in.
On opinion polls which had shown fluctuating support for Sinn Féin Doherty said that these polls consistently underestimate support for party.
"The Irish Times or the Irish Independent is not where it's at in terms of assessing Sinn Féin support. It is our work on the ground and in local communities that counts."
While this may not be reflected in the larger, Dublin-based media outlets it is plain to see in terms of local newspapers and radio stations.
"We will be standing in 40 of the 43 constituencies in the 26 counties and I believe it is within our capabilities to at least double our representation. This will transform the political landscape mirroring our development in the Six Counties.
"We are very proud to be an all - Ireland party with an all - Ireland agenda. Equality and unity is our goal and our activists must work tirelessly to see that the upcoming elections further advance us down that road. If you have not registered already or you know of someone who hasn't you should act today."
Ensure your voice is heard
Sinn Féin is calling on all members and supporters to ensure that they are on the Electoral Register.
You can do this by:
- logging on to www.checktheregister.com
- calling to you local library or post office
People have until 25 November to ensure they are on the Electoral Register.
Register to Vote.