ALMOST 60,500 people could lose their chance to secure the future of the Northern Ireland Assembly after being removed from the electoral register, it has emerged.

Their names have been taken off the list because they failed to respond to requests to update voter details, officials said. Now the group, which is spread across Northern Ireland, has less than one month to re-register or face losing a chance to vote in the snap Stormont election.

The March 2 poll was called after the coalition between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) collapsed over a multi-million pound renewables subsidy scandal. Failure to establish a stable administration mean a return to direct rule.

Yesterday Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary Dave Anderson urged rival politicians to make it work. Anderson, who is also the party’s shadow Scottish secretary, told the House of Commons: “All parties need to look at what they can do to prevent the present impasse generating into total collapse.

“We need to avoid, if at all possible, a return to direct rule. We need Northern Ireland politicians to stand up and be counted, recognise their responsibility and accept that the vehicle for addressing their concerns and needs of their communities is the assembly and its executive.

“The need for continuing with the assembly should be the number one priority for them, and all of us in Westminster. The imposition of direct rule will serve no-one.”

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire was forced to call the election after the deadline for agreement passed on Monday.

Martin McGuinness resigned as Deputy First Minister over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) row, which is expected to cost the public £490 million, and his party Sinn Fein refused to nominate an alternative.

This meant the DUP’s Arlene Foster could not continue as First Minister under the terms of the powersharing deal. She has accused Sinn Fein of triggering the election for political gain because they did not like the outcome of the last vote in May.

She said: “They have forced an election that risks Northern Ireland’s future and stability and which suits nobody but themselves.”

However, Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy said the party wanted “equality, respect and an end to corruption”.

Yesterday Brokenshire said: “I don’t think anybody should prejudge the outcome of this election and therefore I think it is right that we are absolutely focused on seeking to get the right outcome, which is the continuation of devolved government in Northern Ireland. That is in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland, to move things forward.”

According to the BBC, 60,433 names were removed from the electoral register in December after failing to return their form during the last canvass in 2013. Those affected have until February 14 to resubmit their details.