A DUP councillor has said he is certain his party will back suspended MP Ian Paisley if he is forced to fight a by-election.
John Finlay organised a meeting in support of an apologetic Mr Paisley last night near Gracehill which was attended by around 70 people, including all the DUP councillors for Ballymoney and Ballymena, as well as his daughter Emily.
He said he was confident Mr Paisley would be endorsed as a DUP candidate if he faces a by-election, and that there would be no disciplinary action for party members who attended last night's meeting.
"It was a very well attended meeting. We were blessed that Ian was very conciliatory in the meeting - he apologised for his mistake," Mr Finlay said.
The North Antrim DUP has been suspended from his Westminster seat and the DUP after he failed to declare two luxury family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.
A recall petition is currently open to constituents and Mr Paisley may soon be forced to defend his seat at the polls.
In contrast to the sombre tone he struck during his last speech to the House of Commons, a smiling Mr Paisley last night posed for pictures outside the meeting venue.
Taking a leaf out of the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson's book, reporters were offered cups of tea by some of the North Antrim MPs younger supporters wearing DUP Paisley hoodies. Mr Finlay said he had no concerns over whether he and his fellow councillors would be penalised for organising the meeting. "No, there was no talk about that whatsoever. No matter what happens you can be certain Ian Paisley will remain the MP for North Antrim," he claimed.
Asked if he knew if Mr Paisley would be endorsed as a DUP candidate in the event of a by-election, he said: "That's a matter for the party officers, but I'm confident that will be the case."
Yesterday, the Alliance Party raised concerns that many people felt afraid to sign the petition for fear of being identified.
"I haven't come across anything like that at all. That's a matter for the electoral office. Ian Paisley hasn't been involved in that at all," Mr Finlay said.
"The people were very supportive of Ian at the meeting. I knew that would be the case as I've been out and about and I can tell you the overwhelming majority of DUP supporters in North Antrim still support him."
He added: "Knowing Catholics and Protestants across the constituency, people are very thankful for the work Ian does."
Mr Paisley declined to comment last night.
The DUP were also contacted to ask if they approved of the meeting but have yet to respond.
Local SDLP councillor Declan O'Loan accused the DUP of double standards over "elements of the party" organising last night's event. "The SDLP have been clear that though encouraging constituents to sign the recall petition we are not playing party politics, but rather we want to see integrity reinstated to political office," he said.
"It is only right and proper that the DUP should not lend support to Paisley until his suspension has ended.
"Our party will be taking a message of integrity to the doors of North Antrim and by doing so, ensuring the electorate that it doesn't have to be this way."
Sinn Fein MLA for North Antrim Philip McGuigan said the DUP had questions to answer. "They refuse to say how long he is suspended for, or to give any details of the investigation they have announced into his conduct," he said.
He also called on the party to declare if they would endorse Mr Paisley as a DUP candidate in a by-election. Mr McGuigan added: "Do any DUP members, including Ian Paisley as a suspended member, have the party's endorsement to attend this event? Every day that this saga continues, the questions mount for the DUP leadership and they show huge disrespect for the electorate in North Antrim by refusing to answer them."
The recall ballot is under way at three centres in Ballymena, Ballymoney and Ballycastle.
The Recall of MPs Act 2015 requires a petition to be signed by 10% of the 75,478 eligible registered voters.