Anger at decision to uphold closure of Moygashel polling station

Howard Primary School in Moygashel, where a unionist demonstration led to the closure of its polling station. Pacemaker
Howard Primary School in Moygashel, where a unionist demonstration led to the closure of its polling station. Pacemaker

The Electoral Commission has been accused of ‘bias and differential treatment’ over its backing of a decision to move a polling station away from Moygashel.

The ruling - concerning the use of Howard Memorial Primary School - was made following concerns about a loyalist demonstration outside the station during the May 2014 European and Council elections.

Two leading unionists challenged the decision of the Chief Electoral Officer Graham Shields to switch the venue, but the Commission found that his review was “conducted so as to meet electors’ reasonable requirements”.

They did, however, state that Mr Shields should carry out a number of measures to improve accessibility at Dungannon Leisure Centre which was used as one of the alternative venues during May’s poll.

In response Lord Morrow MLA said: “The report focuses on issues of process and technicality rather than providing an answer to the fundamental question; why did the Chief Electoral Officer take the decision to close Howard Memorial School as a polling station?

“The purported rationale for the move is to prevent a repeat of the 2014 incident. Yet this is contradicted in the Commission’s own report. The PSNI assessment states the new polling place is actually more difficult to police.

“Neither does it answer why Moygashel was treated differently or more harshly. Other polling stations have had shooting incidents and rioting yet they were subjected to no sanction by the Electoral Office.

“The Commission simply buries its head on this matter of bias and differential treatment.

“During the worst of the terrorist campaigns the priority was always to keep polling stations open so the people could exercise their right to vote, that should have remained the policy.

“The DUP is angered that key questions have been avoided by the Commission report and cannot accept this decision. The DUP will now pursue the complaint with the international bodies that play an election monitoring role and will campaign for the restoration of Moygashel in all future polling schemes.”