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Thursday, 7 June, 2001, 22:39 GMT 23:39 UK
NI voters face longer wait
There was a visible security presence at polling stations
There was a visible security presence at polling stations
Polling in Northern Ireland has finished but it will be at least Friday afternoon before the province's first MP is declared.

Counting in the general election will not begin until lunchtime that day, due to the Westminster and local government elections being held at the same time.

The turn-out appears to have been fairly high during 15 hours of polling with all the main parties reporting busier than usual polling stations.

In 1997 the turnout was was 67%, but early indications this time suggest it is up to about 72% or 73%.

There were also reports of queues at a number of polling stations.


It just seems that people perhaps have left things a little bit too late

Denis Stanley

Sinn Fein have claimed that queues have been so long in West Belfast, West Tyrone and in the Newry and Armagh constituencies that people have left without voting.

Party leader Gerry Adams has tried to contact Prime Minister Tony Blair about the situation.

Chief Electoral Officer Dennis Stanley said his office had received several complaints, but he was satisfied stations had been staffed correctly.

"We did our best to ensure that happened and went to a great deal of trouble to ensure that everywhere was properly staffed and properly equipped," he said.

"It just seems that people perhaps have left things a little bit too late."

The number of voters was reported to be higher than usual in the North Down and West Tyrone constituencies.

More than 1,000,000 people were eligible to vote in Northern Ireland, in what was the fifth time the province had gone to the polls in five years.

Ballot

It was also the first time the Westminster and local elections were held on the same day.

A total of 100 candidates, including one who is standing in all four Belfast constituencies, are contesting 18 seats in the general election.

In the council elections, 982 hopefuls are in the running for 582 local council seats.

Unlike other parts of the UK, there will be no overnight counting of ballot papers.

It has been delayed until lunchtime on Friday because electoral staff have to undertake a detailed audit of the local government election ballot boxes.

They have been told to make sure that parliamentary ballot papers have not been put in by mistake.

However, if the Westminster candidates have a long wait, the hundreds of local government hopefuls will wait longer still.

The counting of the council poll will not start until Monday 11 June, and will not be completed until the following day.

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