The leaflet urged Alliance voters to instead vote for the Ulster Unionists.
Alliance referred that matter to both the Electoral Commission and the Police Service of Northern Ireland immediately in April 2005. The bodies agreed that the Electoral Commission would investigate the matter in the first instance. The Commission subsequently referred the case for further investigation to the police in April 2006.
In a letter from the District Commander in East Belfast, the PSNI stated that they would not be taking any further action on the matter.
David Ford stated: “In Great Britain, maintaining high standards in political party finances and conduct are regarded as a matter of public interest.
“Voters will be concerned that similar standards are not to be applied to the regulation of the political parties and elections in Northern Ireland. A clear regulatory framework is nominally in place governing not only political parties but also self-appointed third parties. The so-called ‘Concerned Citizens for a Shared Future’ clearly falls within this definition.
“It is understandable that organisations may make genuine good faith mistakes, especially in dealing with new or complex legislation, and seek to remedy faults. However, where organisations continue to apparently defy the law and fail to co-operate with investigations, matters ought to be pursued.
“The basic facts of this case were established by the Alliance Party and the Belfast Telegraph within a matter of days. I am concerned at the delays from both the Electoral Commission and the PSNI in investigating this matter. I have written to both bodies asking them to account for their actions to date, and asking them what further steps they intend to take.
“It would be most alarming if such matters of electoral probity were not considered to be as relevant in Northern Ireland as they are elsewhere.”
This matter refers to a leaflet that was produced by an organisation calling itself “Concerned Citizens for a Shared Future” during the 2005 Westminster Election. It was produced in traditional Alliance Party colours and was calling upon Alliance voters to vote tactically for Ulster Unionist candidates.
These leaflets were not printed in the name of any political party, but a separate body, that would have the status of a “third-party”. No such organisation had been registered with the Electoral Commission. It had no published address, operating from a PO Box number in East Belfast.
Given the volume of leaflets that were printed and distributed, it is extremely likely that the design, production and distribution costs would have exceeded the £5,000 spending limit for an unregistered body prescribed by the Political Parties Referendums and Elections Act, 2000.