Northern Ireland

Iain McAfee's wife, Roma, set to replace him as Ballymoney councillor

A former Ballymoney councillor who resigned after questions were raised over his eligibility looks set to be replaced by his wife.

It had been thought a by-election would need to be held to replace Iain McAfee who was elected as an independent in May 2011.

The Electoral Office initially said it had no record of a letter nominating his wife, Roma as his replacement.

The organisation now admits "clear evidence" was presented.

Mr McAfee immediately "stepped back" as soon as a query over his eligibility was brought to the attention of Ballymoney Borough Council a few weeks after his election.

The 1972 Local Government (Northern Ireland) Act disqualifies a person from standing for election if they hold any paid office with a council.

He works as a health inequalities officer funded by the Public Health Agency but is attached to Ballymena council.

The issue of a by-election arose after the electoral office said it had no record of a letter nominating a replacement for Iain McAfee which had to be written before his resignation.

However, that changed when Mr McAfee produced a recorded delivery slip showing he sent correspondence to the chief Electoral Officer Graham Shields on 14 September.

It was signed as having been received the following day.

Mr McAfee resigned 11 days later, on 26 September.

The chief electoral officer has now released a statement saying Mr McAfee had given "clear evidence" that a substitute's list was properly submitted.

"I can confirm that action is now being taken to appoint a nominated substitute to fill the vacancy created by Mr McAfee's resignation, " added the statement.

"A by-election will not therefore be necessary, subject to the substitute nominated by Mr McAfee agreeing to accept the position."

The former councillor's wife Roma is understood to now be in the process of confirming her acceptance.

Mr McAfee says he's still consulting his solicitor about the role played by the Electoral Office.

"I can't understand how the letter nominating my replacement went missing in the first place but I'm relieved the matter now appears to be effectively resolved," he said.

The circumstances surrounding Mr McAfee's election as a councillor is still being investigated by the police and the Public Prosecution Service, even though Roma McAfee could take her place on the council as early as next month.

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