[Sinn Fein]

18th January 2003

UUP strategy to stop May 1st elections impediment to progress

Sinn Fein Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA speaking during a meeting of the party's Ard Chomhairle in Dublin today has called on the UUP to come clean on their strategy to stop the Assembly elections going ahead on May 1st. He said that it was entirely unhelpful, at a time when all attention should be focused on ending the deadlock and re-instating the political institutions, that there were those working behind the scenes determined to undermine democracy and prevent elections taking place. Mr. McLaughlin said:

``It is now three months since the power sharing government was brought down by the British government and with every day that passes the deepening political vacuum is having a dangerously corrosive effect right across society. With all momentum being sucked out of the process it is imperative that the political institutions are re-established urgently. We need a clear commitment from the British government that the Assembly elections planned for the 1st of May will go ahead on time and as planned. It would be very welcome to hear David Trimble today supporting this call in the interests of the democratic process.''

In relation to the Electoral Office fiasco and disenfranchisement of almost 200,000 people across the north Mr. McLaughlin said:

``Every day more and more people are coming forward who are not currently eligible to vote, due to the deeply flawed process of registration which has taken place. It is incredible that it was Sinn Fein and not the Electoral Office who informed the public that up to 200,000 people had been disenfranchised in this process. Time is moving on and with less than eight weeks to turn this situation around the Electoral Office need to urgently put in place a strategy to rectify the situation. They need to let those who have registered know that their vote is secure and set in place a publicity and information campaign encouraging those who have still to register to do so now.''

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