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Sinn Fein meets Equality Commission on electoral laws

5 April, 2004

Sinn Fein's spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights, South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane led a Sinn Fein delegation including Councillors Chrissie McAuley and Sean Begley today to meet with the Equality Commission to urge it to formally conduct an investigation into the failure of the NIO to properly conduct its equality impact assessment into the new regulations around electoral registration.

Ms Ruane said:

"The outcome of politically driven changes to the electoral registration process has meant, in real terms, that over 211,000 eligible voters in the North were effectively denied their vote

Sinn Fein believes that this situation is a direct denial of the democratic right to vote and to full participation by individuals in the decision making processes of our society.

"We met with the Equality Commission today to impress upon it the fact that the current equality impact consultation underway by the NIO regarding the new registration laws is in fundamental breach of its own Equality Scheme.

"Initially, only four weeks was given for public consultation which was extended to eight weeks following lobbying from ourselves and other bodies. While the short time-scale is only one indicator of the lack of serious intent of the NIO this is further reflected by the fact that there is little evidence or facts contained in the impact assessment to justify the presumptions being made by the NIO.

"The conclusion we have come to is that the NIO is more interested in a paper chasing exercise than in any serious attempt to look at the very obvious inequalities that have emerged as a result of the introduction of the new electoral registration measures.

"The Equality Commission today shared some of these views and said it would be responding to the consultation itself. However we urged the Chief Commissioner Joan Harbinson to crank up the Commission‚s engagement overall regarding how new registration regulations are leading to widescale disenfranchisement and discrimination across all the equality categories. We have now asked the Equality Commission to use its powers to investigate the NIO for failure to comply with its approved Equality Scheme."

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