Northern Ireland

Candidates' family members stopped from entering count centres

Jim Wells with his wife Grace
Image caption Jim Wells with his wife Grace

Family members of three assembly candidates were initially stopped from entering count centres.

At the South Down count the husband of SDLP candidate Sinead Bradley and Jim Wells' wife were not allowed in at Lisburn.

Meanwhile the parents of the DUP's Upper Bann candidate Carla Lockhart were denied entry in Banbridge.

The electoral office later granted entry to the count centre for both spouses.

Mrs Bradley topped the poll in South Down with 5,059 first preference votes.

Her husband suffers from multiple sclerosis and was not listed as her guest because the couple did not know if he would be well enough to attend.

Image caption Sinead Bradley - SDLP - with her husband, who was not allowed into the count centre

"Each candidate is allowed their election agent plus one guest," she said.

"My husband couldn't make judgment on whether he would be having a good MS day.

"Thankfully he was well enough to come, but there has been no flexibility in allowing him in."

Image caption Jim Wells has said he will complain to the electoral office

Jim Wells, of the DUP, who was elected in South Down said that a formal complaint is being lodged with electoral office over the exclusion of his wife, Grace, from the same count centre.

"Sinead has topped the poll in her first count, she wanted her husband to be beside her," he said.

"I was the first to get elected and my wife has been denied and this is a disgrace."

Image caption Sinead Bradley and her husband celebrating after he was allowed to enter the count centre

A spokesperson for the electoral office said: "Access to the election counts are strictly governed by electoral law."

"Everyone attending must be registered in advance and it is very unfortunate that Mrs Wells was not included on the list submitted to the electoral office.

"The electoral office must treat all candidates equally."