14 Feb 2013
A seminar to examine openness and transparency in the electoral and democratic process in Northern Ireland is being hosted today by the Electoral Commission, the independent elections watchdog.
The aim of the seminar is to make sure voters are put first. The seminar will cover issues including the lack of transparency in the funding of political parties in Northern Ireland as well as asking what can be done to engage voters at a time of declining interest from the public in the political process.
Speakers at the event will outline what they think needs to be done to improve the electoral and democratic process. Delegates at the seminar include representatives from all of the main political parties, academics and groups from the voluntary and community sector.
Speaking ahead of the seminar Anna Carragher, Electoral Commissioner for Northern Ireland, said: “This timely and important seminar aims to ensure the voter is always put first in Northern Ireland. Earlier this week the UK Government extended the current rules on keeping information on how parties are funded confidential. We understand why the Government took this step, but we also know that voters want to see more transparency.
"We need to find a way to resolve this as soon as practicable. We also need to take urgent action to improve the quality of electoral registers in Northern Ireland. Our recent report into electoral registration found a worrying decline in both the accuracy and completeness of the electoral register. We need to ensure that all steps are taken so that voters can participate in the electoral and democratic process."
Media are welcome to attend the seminar. For further information contact:
Cahir Hughes on 028 9089 4023 or email email@example.com
Out of office hours 07789 920414
Notes to Editor
- The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance, set standards for well-run elections and are responsible for the conduct and regulations of referendums held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000).
- The following speakers have confirmed at the seminar: NIO representative,Graham Shields – Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland, James Orr – Director Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland,Dr John Garry – Queens University Belfast, John Stewart – Director of Information and Outreach NI Assembly.
- In November 2012 the Commission published its report on Continuous electoral registration in Northern Ireland. It found that the electoral register was 71% complete and 78% accurate. The news release of the reports publication is available at: www.electoralcommission.org.uk/news-and-media/news-releases/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-reviews-and-research/urgent-action-required-to-improve-northern-irelands-electoral-register
- The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) requires registered political parties in Great Britain and Northern Ireland to report cash and non-cash donations and borrowing on a quarterly basis to the Electoral Commission. Political parties must report all donations and borrowing over £7,500 to the central party, or over £1,500 to an accounting unit, to the Electoral Commission. However the Commission does not publish this information in Northern Ireland and is required to hold it on a confidential basis.