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Equality Commission to investigate electoral registration

16 April, 2004

Sinn Féin's Equality and Human Rights spokesperson, South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane has slammed the Electoral registration legislation which, she said "is discriminating against the poorest and most vulnerable sections of our society."

Ms Ruane said:

"Sinn Féin recently met with the Equality Commission. Following our meeting they agreed to investigate what we consider is a breach of the NIO's equality duties with respect to electoral registration.

"We have raised this issue with the British and Irish governments.

"The NIO's equality impact assessment has identified clear disparities and disadvantage arising from the existing electoral registration laws. And yet they refuse to address the issue.

"Research by the Electoral Commission has shown that, the highest decline in electoral registration occurred in the top 20 most deprived wards of which 69% are catholic and 27% are protestant.

"In our view those who supported this legislation must look to the effect it is having, not just in terms of denying large numbers of people their right to vote, but in the categories of people being affected: the poorest and most vulnerable within our community, the young, the old, those with disabilities and ethnic minorities.

"The adverse pattern emerging across the North is that this legislation is producing a two-tier system whereby affluent areas are returning high registration uptake and the poorest areas, mostly in deprived catholic and protestant wards, are alarmingly low." ENDS

Note to Editors: Of the top ten wards in Belfast with the largest percentage decline in registration, nine are catholic: Falls, Clonard, Twinbrook, Whiterock, Poleglass, Colin Glen, Clencolin, Kilwee, Ardoyne. The Protestant wards of Coole and Dunanney have the next highest decline in registration.

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