The Ulster Unionist Party’s Fermanagh & South Tyrone MP Tom Elliot and MLA Neil Somerville, have voiced their disappointment at the Electoral Commission’s decision to uphold the Electoral Office decision of April this year to cease to use Moygashel’s Howard Primary School as a polling station.
Mr Elliott said;
"I cannot express enough, my disappointment at this decision. There are large numbers of elderly people in the Moygashel and Coolhill areas of Dungannon who relied upon the Howard Primary School on election day. I campaigned from the outset against the flawed decision by the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland to refuse the use of Howard Primary School, which was viewed by many as a political decision to satisfy one political party, Sinn Fein. The so called ‘consultation process’ which the Electoral Office was forced to undertake, didn’t directly consult with the vast numbers of electors who were forced to go to two different wards to record their vote.
“The decision to use Dungannon Leisure Centre has been demonstrated to be unsuitable, inconvenient and I’m sure very expensive. The unsuitability of the location was highlighted by a recognised assessment carried out by William Keown Trust which stated that the site would inconvenience and severely disadvantage the most vulnerable in the community due to physical barriers. Indeed the Electoral Commission has said in its decision that 'on balance the location of, and access to, the School is likely to be better than the Leisure Centre for the majority of the electors.’
"I wish to record my thanks and appreciation to the residents of Moygashel and Coolhill who made the extra effort, some at a significant additional cost in finance and personal inconvenience, to get to a polling station whatever way they could in May of this year. Whilst canvassing on the doorsteps at the time, many residents informed me of their distress at the possibility of the school not being reinstated as a polling station. I along with colleagues have made personal representations to the Electoral Office to make the case for all of the constituents in this area."
Mr Somerville said;
"I am quite appalled that the Electoral Commission has failed to recognise the real difficulties faced by residents in Moygashel and Coolhill as a result of the Howard Primary School no longer being used as a polling station. I join with my colleague Tom Elliott MP in thanking the residents of Moygashel and Coolhill who refused to let this ludicrous decision prevent them from voting in May. Nonetheless, I believe the decision has left elderly members of our society potentially cut off from the voting process.
"I will continue to fight for all of the residents in Moygashel and Coolhill, and to ensure that reliable transportation is available for them at future elections if the polling station is not moved back to Moygashel."