Belfast Telegraph

Ian Paisley recall petition opens in Co Antrim

The senior Democratic Unionist was suspended from the Commons for 30 sitting days over his failure to declare two family holidays.

A petition which could unseat North Antrim MP Ian Paisley has opened.

The senior Democratic Unionist was suspended from the Commons for 30 sitting days over his failure to declare two family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan Government.

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(PA Graphics)

Mr Paisley could become the first MP to lose his seat under legislation introduced by the former coalition government following the Westminster expenses scandal, although the DUP has a massive majority in North Antrim.

Should 10% of the electorate, or 7,543 people, sign the petition, then a by-election will be held and Mr Paisley is currently suspended from the DUP pending a party investigation.

If he loses the backing of Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party, his prospects for re-election would be damaged.

Sinn Fein’s Stormont Assembly member Philip McGuigan said: “This is an issue of integrity in Government, it is not an orange and green issue.

“This is not even about nationalism versus unionism.

“This is an issue about trust in your politicians that they will do their jobs with integrity.”

In March 2014, Mr Paisley lobbied the then prime minister David Cameron against a proposed United Nations resolution to investigate alleged human rights abuses during a civil war on the Indian Ocean island without disclosing his financial benefit.

Mr Paisley has already apologised for what he said was his “unintentional failure” to register the hospitality.

He has vowed to fight any by-election campaign.

Three petition centres were opened across North Antrim but Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann has criticised the Electoral Office’s “limited” provision.

He said: “The Ulster Unionist Party will not register as campaigner during the recall petition, but we would encourage any North Antrim electors who think what Ian Paisley did was wrong to sign the petition and allow the entire North Antrim electorate to have their say.”

He added: “I believe the findings of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards are so serious and go to such an extent that the only option is for a by-election to be called.”

The petition can be signed at centres in Ballymena, Ballymoney and Ballycastle.

The Electoral Office is running the petition process and those signing have to produce a driving licence, UK or Irish passport, electoral identity card or bus or rail pass.

The DUP’s 10 pro-Brexit MPs are crucial allies of Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority Government.

The recall petition will be open for signing for six weeks.

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Signage for the recall petition which opened at the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre in Ballymoney

Mr Paisley has been MP for the constituency since 2010, following in the footsteps of his father and DUP founder Ian Paisley.

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