Local author Rob Thompson will serve as election observer in Ireland

A resident of Attica will serve as an election observer in Northern Ireland on May 5, the date set for the election of its Legislative Assembly, the Legislature of Northern Ireland. Rob Thompson is accredited by the UK Electoral Commission and is trained by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the EU.

COVID-19 has forced many elections to be postponed and now, with the world reopening, so to speak, election calendars are also full. Over the next 18 months my schedule includes, in addition to Northern Ireland, electoral work in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Estonia. In May, and on subsequent short-term assignments, I will be working in several polling stations in West Belfast to ensure that the electoral process adheres to the principles established by the 1990 Copenhagen document; “universal, equal, just, secret, free, transparent and responsible.”

One issue I found interesting was Brexit, in the 2019 vote England and Wales voted to leave the EU while Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay. With the Brexit victory, the question was whether there would be a hard border between NI and the Republic of Ireland. But a protocol has been negotiated and aims to protect the EU’s single market while avoiding the imposition of a “hard border” that could incite a resurgence of conflict. Under the protocol, Northern Ireland is officially outside the EU single market, but EU free movement of goods rules and EU customs union rules still apply. ; this ensures that there are no customs checks or checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the island. Periodically, NI will vote to stay or reject the protocol, the first consent vote is scheduled for December 2024. The Legislative Assembly election in May could be a telltale vote, indicating whether or not NI is heading for independence or remain unionist.

Lola R. McClure