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Sinn Féin give general welcome to new registration proposals

21 August, 2006

Sinn Féin Assembly group leader John O'Dowd today welcomed the move by the Electoral Office to remove the annual registration requirement and move to a ten year system. However he expressed some concerns that the new register is being compiled from a blank sheet and is not using the current register as a starting point.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"When the annual registration requirement was first introduced it was with the full support of the unionists and the SDLP. Sinn Féin correctly predicted that this measure would lead to tens of thousands of people being disenfranchised. Since then we have campaigned for a change in the legislation and secured a commitment from the British government to address this issue.

"I would welcome the system being proposed today which will in effect remove the annual registration requirement and replace it with a ten year system. However we do have some concerns that a decision has been taken to compile the new register from scratch rather than using the existing register as a starting point. Given this reality many feel that the initial register under this new system due for publication on December 1st may well be missing many people from it. If this situation does transpire then it is important that easily understood mechanisms are put in place to address such a scenario in the months following December.

"However progress has been made and I would urge people to work with the Electoral Office canvassers as they begin their work compiling the new register in the coming weeks. This new system may take sometime to bed in but I am confident that in time this system will undo much of the damage caused by the previous system." ENDS

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