Come forth Lazarus!

Northern elections were always different. That wasn’t because they were close run in some constituencies and one-sided in others. It was because they were supernatural events.

Northern elections were always different. That wasn’t because they were close run in some constituencies and one-sided in others. It was because they were supernatural events.

Graveyards used to empty on election days. People rose from the dead like they do in horror movies. They made their way to a polling station, recorded their vote and returned to their subterranean residence before attracting suspicion. There were more miracles on Election Day than there were in the New Testament. It was an underground movement. Often, the dead didn’t even need to go to all that trouble. Many ‘kind’ citizens saw it as their duty to vote for them. When I was a boy the wife of a Northern Prime Minister finished her speech at a pre-election rally with the time-honoured injunction, “Remember – vote early and vote often”. After an early vote the civic minded could return again and again to, ‘do’ a few for the dead.

All this came to mind on reading what happened at a Derry election court in 1946. Unionists were objecting to three nationalists on the register. They had just finished giving evidence of their deaths when the voters in question walked into the room with “notes” proving they were alive. They appeared in response to an urgent summons from a nationalist registration agent.

It was the greatest comeback since Lazarus. Derry people weren’t to see the likes of it again until three or four decades later when Bobby Ewing made his amazing comeback in Dallas.