Belfast Telegraph

Ian Paisley adds recall petition to Twitter biography - Sinn Fein blames Electoral Office for result

Sinn Fein have blamed the Electoral Office for the failure of a recall petition to unseat the DUP's Ian Paisley as North Antrim MP.

The party's North Antrim MLA Phillip McGuigan said that the Electoral Office did not open enough locations to enable people to sign the petition. He also blamed "the lack of an effective public awareness campaign and the restrictive opening hours of the signing centres."

However Chief Electoral Officer, Virginia McVea defended the process pointed out that it was the first ever recall petition to take place in the United Kingdom.

"Never before in Northern Ireland has there been postal vote on demand, no reason had to be given, and instead of one day for poll, we ran for six weeks and with two late nights on top," she said.

In the early hours of Thursday morning it was announced that the recall petition had failed.

In North Antrim 7,099 people signed the petition over the past six weeks - that was 9.4% of the electorate and 444 short of the required number. Fourteen of the papers lodged were deemed void or rejected for uncertainty.

Ten percent of the North Antrim electorate was required. That was 7,543 voters.

Mr Paisley did not attend the announcement. He was informed of the result by text message.

The petition of recall process opened after Mr Paisley was given a 30-sitting day ban from the Commons - the longest on record for any MP.

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Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland Virginia McVea announces that the recall petition has not passed the threshold to trigger a by-election (Liam McBurney/PA)

A parliamentary watchdog found in August that a year after receiving luxury holidays, Mr Paisley lobbied then prime minister David Cameron not to support a UN probe into alleged Sri Lankan human rights abuses.

The recall petition was triggered by Ian Paisley’s suspension from the House of Commons (Liam McBurney/PA)
The recall petition was triggered by Ian Paisley’s suspension from the House of Commons (Liam McBurney/PA)
A sample of the recall petition which opened at the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre in Ballymoney (Niall Carson/PA)

As well as not declaring the holidays, the MP was found to have broke Commons lobbying rules.

Three centres were opened in North Antrim for the last six weeks to give voters the opportunity to sign the petition. Constituents were also able to put their name to the petition by post.

Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea declared the results on Thursday morning just after 1am.

Ms McVea communicated the outcome to Speaker John Bercow's office before announcing it at the electoral office's Belfast headquarters.

"The petition has not been successful," she said.

In a statement to the Press Association, Mr Paisley said the “electorate had spoken”.

The Paisley family at home in 1988. From left to right Ian Junior, Cherith, Rhonda, Kyle. Pic Pacemaker
The Paisley family at home in 1988. From left to right Ian Junior, Cherith, Rhonda, Kyle. Pic Pacemaker
Ian Paisley hurdles a fence during canvassing for 2010 election. Pic Charles McQuillan Pacemaker
Ian Paisley with Donald Trump. The North Antrim MP has supported the US president.
Ian Paisley and Ian jnr eating buns in the campaign trail in March 1982.
Ian Paisley at the Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena after retaining his seat in the 2015 general election
Ian Paisley junior left pictured with his father during the Drumcree stand off in 1996. PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/04/98
Ian Paisley MP at a Remembrance Day commemoration in Kenya
Pacemaker Belfast - Archive Ian Paisley Jnr with "Justice for the UDR Four " at his Ravenhill office. 19-12-90 1053-90-BWC
Ian with Arlene Foster after she was made DUP party leader
9 / 6 / 17 PACEMAKER PRESS Ian Paisley Jr celebrates with his son Matthew and wife Fiona after winning his seat for North Antrim in the UK Parliamentary Elections. PICTURE MATT BOHILL PACEMAKER PRESS
Ian Paisley Jnr, whose father founded the DUP in 1971, says, 'everybody hates us but we've got the cash' [Photo: Marc McKormick, www.independent.co.uk]
Ian Paisley with his late father. Credit: Stephen Davidson/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST. Ian Paisley and Ian Junior in Studio. 16/8/94. 704/94/bwc
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 14/1/2011: Ian Paisley Junior pictured at the Adelaide Racer awards at the Ramada hotel PICTURE BY CHARLES MCQUILLAN
Paisley with Miss North West 200 Jillian Frew
3/5/2010. PACEMAKER BELFAST. IAN PAISLEY JR POSES FOR THE OFFICIAL ELECTION ARTIST, SIMON ROBERTS WHILST CANVESSING IN THE COUNTRYSIDE OUTSIDE BALLYMENA THIS AFTERNOON. PICTURE CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 22-03-2013: Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, Jr, MP is the Member of Parliament for North Antrim and member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for the Democratic Unionist Party and an author. He is the son of the DUP's founder and former leader, Ian Paisley. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Ian Paisley Jr met Amari Wijewardene, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner, in Parliament to discuss a post-Brexit trade deal
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: North Antrim MP, Ian Paisley at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER BELFAST 20/04/2017 Ian Paisley speaks to the Irish Times at Stormont Hotel in Belfast, about his father. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
Ian discusses the legacy of his father Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
Ian Paisley
Pacemaker Belfast 18-06-2007: Junior Minister Ian Paisley Junior pictured at photocall at Stormont where ministers were encouraging people to cycle to work.
PACEMAKER BELFAST. Copy pics from the book about the early years of the life of Ian Paisley. 13/8/86. 1197/86/bw
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 8/5/2015:DUP's Ian Paisley celebrates his victory in the North Antrim constituency count in Ballymena . PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
A picture posted by Ian Paisley (right) of Arron Banks (second left), Sammy Wilson (second right) and Leave.EU campaigner Andy Wigmore
Pacemaker press 21/4/15 The Democratic Unionist Party MP Ian paisley Junior launches election manifesto at Wrightbus in Co Antrim. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
Paisley with Melania Trump
Ian Paisley Junior
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 8/5/2015:DUP's Ian Paisley celebrates his victory in the North Antrim constituency count in Ballymena . PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
DUP's Ian Paisley celebrates victory in the North Antrim constituency count in Ballymena in the May 2015 General Election. Picture Stephen Davison Pacemaker 8/5/2015.
PACEMAKER BELFAST. Ian Paisley and Ian Jnr.
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 8/5/2015: DUP's Ian Paisley celebrates his victory in the North Antrim constituency count in Ballymena by singing the National Anthem. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 8/5/2015: Ian Paisley arrives at the North Antrim constituency count in Ballymena with his wife, Fiona. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
9 / 6 / 17 PACEMAKER PRESS Ian Paisley Jr celebrates winning his seat for North Antrim in the UK Parlimentary Elections. PICTURE MATT BOHILL PACEMAKER PRESS
3/5/2010. PACEMAKER BELFAST. IAN PAISLEY JR AND IAN PAISLEY SR IN HARRYVILLE, BALLYMENA. PICTURE CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER.
Pacemaker Press 8/5/2017 DUP's Ian Paisley Jnr during the Launch of the DUP's General election campaign launch at the Castlereigh Hills Golf in East Belfast on Monday, ahead of the election on the 8th of June. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 8/5/2015:DUP's Ian Paisley celebrates his victory in the North Antrim constituency count in Ballymena . PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Pacemaker Press: 22th December 2017: Ian Paisley Jr pictured with his new and old Passport Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Ian Paisley
Pacemaker Press Belfast 31-03-2014: Launch of North-West 200 road races at Titanic Belfast . Pictured at the launch Ian Paisley, Jr. and Arlene Foster, MLA Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. PICTURE BY: STEPHEN DAVISON
Pacemaker Press Belfast 31-03-2014: Launch of North-West 200 road races at Titanic Belfast .Pictured at the launch Ian Paisley, Jr. and Arlene Foster, MLA Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. PICTURE BY: STEPHEN DAVISON
9 / 6 / 17 PACEMAKER PRESS Ian Paisley Jr celebrates winning his seat for North Antrim in the UK Parlimentary Elections. PICTURE MATT BOHILL PACEMAKER PRESS

“In July I apologised for a mistake made almost six years ago.”

“The electorate was asked to pass judgment. 90.6% have accepted my apology.

“The electorate has clearly spoken.

“I would like to thank my true friends, family, the electorate who have stood by me with unwavering support. Hallelujah.”

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DUP's Arlene Foster with Ian Paisley MP.

Reacting North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan said the result was disappointing and challenged the DUP leadership to clarify the party's position on Mr Paisley's conduct.

“The result should also not be taken as an endorsement of Ian Paisley’s actions but rather as an indictment on the Electoral Office who did not do enough to facilitate the people of North Antrim who wished to sign the petition.

"Ian Paisley’s party leadership have yet to condemn his actions or to confirm whether or not he still has their support as MP for North Antrim.

“That is a failure of leadership. They need to come out of their hiding place and address the very serious issues at the heart of this scandal.”

Ulster Unionist Party Leader, Robin Swann MLA said public confidence in politics had collapsed.

"I respect that outcome," he said.

"However I would caution Ian Paisley not to see this as some sort of victory or endorsement of his actions in acting as a paid advocate for a foreign government and bringing North Antrim and the House of Commons into disrepute.

“Rather I would urge him to use the time that he has been suspended from Parliament and the DUP, to reflect on the severity of what he has done and the embarrassment he has brought on Northern Ireland.

"He should demonstrate some humility."

Mid and East Antrim SDLP Councillor Declan O’Loan said that many people declined to sign the petition because they believed Mr Paisley would win any by-election.

‘It would have been a better outcome for democracy and political progress here if the outcome had been different," he said.

"The weak support from unionist parties for the petition is further evidence of our divisions - they felt that going against Paisley would ultimately rebound on them.

"Unfortunately we have to rely only on the sanction imposed by the House of Commons to demonstrate that Ian Paisley’s conduct was unacceptable."

In the Commons in July Mr Paisley it was with “profound personal regret and deep personal embarrassment” that he had to make a statement over the report's findings.

But he denied he had any “ulterior motive for that genuine mistake” in 2013, adding that he accepted his “total failure” and offered another unreserved apology “without qualification”.

He will now return to the Commons in November when his ban ends.

He, however, remains suspended from the DUP as it conducts its own investigation into the matter.

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