THE PSNI have confirmed they received reports that a man with a gun threatened unionists at a polling station in Co. Tyrone.
The polls opened at 7am this morning as voters in the constituency of West Tyrone took to the ballot box to select a new MP.
The by-election was called after Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff resigned over the backlash he received for posing with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on the anniversary of the Kingsmill Massacre in January.
Ulster Unionist Party candidate Chris Smyth said that police informed him a man with what appeared to be a handgun was threatening unionists at a polling station on Crockanboy Road, Greencastle.
The man allegedly walked into the building with the firearm and said to those present that he would shoot any unionists amongst them, before fleeing the scene.
I am disturbed to hear reports of alleged gunman at Greencastle polling station threatening voters before fleeing.
If true this is an outrageous challenge to rule of law, respect for democratic process and to safety of Greencastle voters.
Anyone with info should contact PSNI.
— Stephen Donnelly (@SteveDonnelly95) May 3, 2018
"I am shocked and appalled that something like this could happen," Cllr Smyth told the Belfast Telegraph.
“I am informed there were no police present at the time. I arrived just ten minutes later and there is now a strong, armed police presence at the scene.
“It is sad that we continue to have people in our society who want to terrorise and intimidate you just because of your political opinion. These people need removed from society. I for one will not be intimidated by them.”
In a statement, the PSNI said: "It was reported that the man may have been carrying a firearm.
"Efforts are continuing to locate him and enquiries into the matter are ongoing."
It's understood that electoral officers have requested additional police support at the polling station.
The polls close at 10pm tonight with a result expected early on Friday morning.
Sinn Fein's Órfhlaith Begley, SDLP's Daniel McCrossan, DUP's Thomas Buchanan, the Alliance Party's Stephen Donnelly and the UUP's Chris Smyth are all in the running to become West Tyrone's new MP.
Northern Ireland's chief electoral officer is on her way to polling station in Greencastle, West Tyrone, after she says a gun was pulled on polling staff. Armed police are now present & a hunt is under way for the individual.https://t.co/HOHnmDHJnS
— Sam McBride (@SJAMcBride) May 3, 2018