Polling station dropped over loyalist flags

A community centre in Derry has been dropped as a polling station after complaints over loyalist flags.

Thursday, 14th April 2016, 11:40 am
Updated Thursday, 14th April 2016, 11:43 am

At last year’s Westminster election, the centre in Newbuildings was selected as the area’s polling station - but some voters complained that they felt intimidated because flags had been flown in the grounds.

The polling station will now move to Newbuildings Primary School, where it had previously been located.

Graham Shields, the chief electoral officer, took the decision after he investigated the complaints, the BBC has reported.

“The reason [for the move] was that loyalist flags were erected in the car park of the community centre,” Mr Shields told the BBC.

“On polling day, I received a number of complaints from people who were unhappy and felt intimidated when they went to vote by the presence of the flags.

“What we tried to do last year in using the community centre was to minimise the disruption to the local community by having to close the school on polling day.

“However, we feel it is a safer and a more neutral venue to go back to the school.”

Mr Shields said it was an important principle that polling stations should be kept neutral.

“We do not want to see anyone feeling unable to exercise their franchise because they feel intimidated,” he said.

“We will do everything possible to ensure that people can vote in an atmosphere free from intimidation.”