Movement possible for Crossgar voters

Movement possible for Crossgar voters

13 March 2019

PEOPLE in Crossgar may after all be able to vote in their home village at the forthcoming local government election.

Electoral officials had previously rejected a number of appeals to scrap a controversial decision which forces residents who live in Crossgar to make their way to nearby Drumaghlis or Killyleagh to vote.

Residents had been told this would again be the position on May 2 when they vote to return five Rowallane area councillors to Newry, Mourne and Down Council.

However, Northern Ireland’s most senior electoral official has confirmed that she is currently investigating the matter and voters could yet end up voting at Glasswater Primary School polling station in Crossgar.

The commitment to see what could potentially be done was given by Virginia McVea during a recent meeting to discuss the issue with South Down MLA Colin McGrath and Rowallane councillor Terry Andrews.

Mr McGrath said he and his SDLP party colleague met with the electoral official to ensure that the voice of the people in the Crossgar area was heard “loud and clear” with those responsible for polling stations at election time.  

The MLA said it “beggars belief” that in Westminster and Assembly elections, people in Crossgar can vote in their own village but that when it comes to a local government election, they cannot and have to travel elsewhere.

“The meeting with the chief electoral officer was very productive and she assured Terry and I that she will now endeavour to run some desktop administrative processes to assess the feasibility of returning a polling station to Crossgar for the May election,” explained Mr McGrath.

“If this is achievable then she will do her best to make those necessary changes. If it looks as though this will be a longer process, then it will require further investigation. Hopefully, the outcome will be known shortly.”

Cllr Andrews said the voting issue dated back to the 2014 council election.

He said he was greatly concerned that were many elderly constituents in Crossgar who would not be able to travel to other polling stations.

Ironically, electoral officials confirmed recently that people in Drumaness will cast their votes in the Dan Rice Hall in the centre of the village and not at Christ the King Primary School which has been the area’s polling station for a number of years. 

Cllr Andrews said he hoped that” common sense will prevail” and that people in Crossgar will be allowed to vote in their home village.

“The real irony is that people 

who live within touching distance of the John Street primary school in the village which is used as a polling station will not be able to vote there and will have to make their way either to a church hall in Drumaghlis or Killyleagh Integrated Primary School.

“The decision to force people in Crossgar to vote in polling centres several miles away makes no sense and will have a particular impact on those who cannot get a lift or who have no have access to public transport.”

Cllr Andrews claimed that around 2,000 voters in Crossgar were being treated differently to those in Killyleagh, Saintfield and Ballynahinch.