Election probe was ‘a waste of police time’, says McMullan

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SINN Fein MLA Oliver McMullan has branded an investigation into his eligibility to stand for election to Larne Council “a waste of time and resources”.

The Cushendall man, who topped the poll in the Coast Road DEA and won an Assembly seat in elections last May, said this week he had been informed by the Public Prosecutions Service that he will not face any charges.

Three unionists formally objected to Mr McMullan’s nomination, claiming that he failed to fulfil requirements that candidates should either have lived in the borough in which they are seeking election at least 12 months prior to the poll; have owned property or land there in that time; or if their principal or only place of work during the 12 months was in that area.

Soon after nominations closed, the outgoing Ulster Unionist mayor Andy Wilson, TUV alderman Jack McKee and DUP councillor Gregg McKeen each lodged a complaint with the Chief Electoral Officer. The complainants had noted there was no claim on the candidate’s part regarding residency or property ownership and they queried his assertion that his principal place of work had been in Larne, on grounds that Mr McMullan had only recently stood down after 19 years as a Moyle councillor and that he had business interests in the Moyle district.

Mr McMullan insisted that his primary occupation in recent years had been his work for East Antrim Sinn Fein in the Larne area.

Chief electoral Officer Graham Shields confirmed Mr McMullan’s nomination, stating that by law officials can only check that nomination papers are complete and they are not required to verify details.

Complainants then pressed for a police investigation which, according to Mr McMullan, concluded at the end of March.

The Sinn Fein politician, who would have lost his Assembly seat as a consequence of any conviction for electoral fraud, maintained when the complaints were lodged last April that he had “clearly met all the qualifying criteria”.

”I knew from day one that there was no case to answer and the result, in my mind, was never in doubt,” he said.

“To me, it was always a waste of time for the police and the whole judicial system and I think that those who made the allegations should now reflect on that. If they had done their homework they would have known, as I knew and my party knew, that there was no case to answer, but when I looked at the evidence that certain individuals produced, it would be best described as pathetic,” Mr McMullan added.

The MLA, who revealed that he had been questioned by detectives at Ballymena, said: “The police were forced to go through with this charade because the complaint had been made, but I have now received notification that there will be no further proceedings.”

Mr McMullan resigned from Larne Council in the autumn and was replaced by Carnlough man James McKeown.