Belfast Telegraph

Ian Paisley: Electoral office reveals number of signatures needed to call by-election

By Jonathan Bell

The Electoral Office has revealed the number of signatures required to force a North Antrim by-election.

It comes after MP Ian Paisley was suspended from the House of Commons for failing to declare lavish family holidays in Sri Lanka, for breaching rules on paid advocacy and for breaching rules on registration of interests by failing to register the two visits to Sri Lanka.

His 30-sitting day suspension is the longest for an MP on record.

The ban brings into place the Petition of Recall Act of 2015. It was brought in by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government and was designed to allow constituents to sack their MP.

Under the law a recall petition can be called after the Speaker of the House of Commons notifies them that an MP has been  barred from the House of Commons for 10 sitting days or 14 calendar days.

Once a Petition Officer has opened a recall petition, it will be open for signing for six weeks. If at least 10% of the electorate in the constituency signs the petition, the MP will lose their seat and a by-election will be triggered. The recalled MP can stand as a candidate at the by-election.

On Monday the Northern Ireland Electoral Office said there were 75,478 people entitled to take part in the petition in North Antrim.

"The number of persons who would need to sign the petition to be successful in accordance with section 14 of the Act is 7,547," said a Electoral Office statement.

It will be the first time that the Recall of MPs Act 2015 for a recall petition process has been triggered. Every North Antrim constituent is to be notified in the coming days of the petition and there will be a a number of polling places open for six weeks before the final tally is announced.

In last year's general election Mr Paisley topped the poll with 20,643 votes. The other parties polled a combined 19,939 votes.

He has been suspended by the DUP as it conducts its investigation into the matter.

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