OMAGH Electoral Office has been relocated to new premises in the Tyrone town, but its long-term future remains unclear.

Several months ago, public sector trade union NIPSA wrote to Fermanagh and Omagh District Council stating that the Electoral Office of Northern Ireland (EONI) had been unable to agree an extension to the lease for its building at Kevlin Avenue, Omagh.

The union represents staff working at the Electoral Office.

It warned that, with the lease agreement due to finish at the end of 2017, it was likely that the office in Omagh would close with all staff and services moving to Londonderry.

When the matter was discussed by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, members were critical of any moves to close the office, which provides services for both the West Tyrone and Fermanagh South Tyrone constituencies.

They warned that residents in parts of Fermanagh could end up being around 70 miles from the nearest Electoral Office if the Omagh branch closed.

Concerns were also expressed that online voter registration still had not been rolled out by the Electoral Office.

The local authority later offered to provide accommodation for Electoral Office staff within a Council facility in the area, in order to maintain the local provision of services.

However, EONI announced just before Christmas that it was relocating its premises in Omagh from Kevlin Avenue to the first floor of Community House on Drumragh Avenue.

It opened to the public last week, with the same staff and all previously-offered services.

Speaking to the Impartial Reporter this week, NIPSA Higher Executive Officer, Dooley Harte, said the “right decision” had been made by EONI, but added that the union remained “somewhat concerned” about the long-term future of the remaining Electoral Offices across Northern Ireland.

Mr. Harte said: “We are currently working with EONI to ensure the suitability of the new accommodation in Omagh for members of the public and also our own members.”

He also praised the contribution of local politicians in the effort to retain the office in Omagh.

The union official said that he understood the arrangement in Omagh would continue until a decision was reached by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) over the public consultation carried out a year ago on the future delivery of electoral services in the province.

In February last year, Kris Hopkins, the then-government minister who announced the consultation, said that no decision on the future of electoral services would be made until the Northern Ireland Assembly was back up and running.

Mr. Harte said that, while there had been no decision yet, Lord Ian Duncan, who is now the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, could decide to close all the Electoral Offices here.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland, Virginia McVea, said: “The long-term arrangements for EONI, which includes the Omagh area office, are subject to the outcome of the public consultation.”

At the January meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, members noted correspondence from EONI in relation to the temporary relocation of the Omagh Electoral Office to the Community House.

The Council also agreed that further representations be made to Lord Ian Duncan and Sir Jonathan Stephens, Permanent Secretary for the Northern Ireland Office, requesting an urgent meeting to discuss more fully the concerns of members in relation to the future operational arrangements for the Electoral Office in Omagh.