Northern Ireland

Former DUP MLA Alastair Ross appointed Electoral Commissioner

Alastair Ross

Former DUP MLA Alastair Ross has been appointed to the post of Electoral Commissioner.

He was nominated by the party's leader Arlene Foster.

Mr Ross, 37, is the first commissioner proposed by a political party in Northern Ireland to get the job.

A former junior minister in the Executive Office, Mr Ross left the assembly in 2017 after opting not to stand for re-election in East Antrim.

'Impressive candidate'

He was one of six candidates put forward by the smaller parties at Westminster for the post and was the unanimous choice of the selection panel set up through the Speaker's Committee.

They described Mr Ross as "an impressive candidate who met all the essential criteria for the position".

It was also felt "he would bring the perspective of being an elected representative in a different jurisdiction, as well as knowledge of political campaigning and membership of a smaller party".

When asked about his role, a spokesman for the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland said: "Commissioners set the priorities and strategic direction of the organisation."

'Integrity, honesty, impartiality and objectivity'

"They are not involved in the commission's investigatory procedures or decisions," he continued.

"All commissioners are expected to maintain the highest standards of integrity, honesty, impartiality and objectivity.

"They are required to declare any interests which may represent a conflict with their role at the Commission."

Image caption Mr Ross, pictured with DUP ministerial team in 2016, was nominated by the party's leader Arlene Foster

Mr Ross is one of three political appointees to the Electoral Commission along with the Conservative Lord Gilbert of Panteg and former Labour MP Joan Walley.

He will hold the post for the next two years.

Relations between the Electoral Commission and DUP have at times been strained, but earlier this year the commission decided not to investigate the £435,000 donation to the party made during the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign.

The Electoral Commission is also currently investigating money paid by Mid and East Antrim Council to sponsor a table at a dinner hosted by the the DUP MP Ian Paisley.

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