Belfast Telegraph

Taxpayers face bill of £188k over failed petition of recall for MP Paisley

 

By Suzanne Breen

The petition of recall which gave North Antrim voters the chance to unseat Ian Paisley as MP is expected to cost up to £188,000 of public money.

Northern Ireland's Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea said the projected budget for the petition which involved opening three polling centres in the constituency for six weeks.

Ian Paisley meeting members of the public
Ian Paisley meeting members of the public
Ian Paisley meeting members of the public
Ian Paisley meeting members of the public
Ian Paisley meeting members of the public

The bill may come in under that amount.

The figure was revealed as Mr Paisley's suspension was yesterday lifted by the DUP and he was readmitted to the party.

The decision was announced just hours after he survived the attempt to oust him from the seat his father once held - by just 0.4% of the vote.

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill denounced the DUP decision and said the party leadership was effectively endorsing his actions.

It came as the PSNI said it was investigating comments on social media linked to the recall petition. Mr Paisley confirmed he has made three complaints to police over allegations electoral law was broken over the process.

The MP yesterday said he was "humbled and privileged" by the electorate's decision and praised his family and "true friends" for standing by him.

"I was asked to make an apology, I gave that apology, and I believe that 90.6% of the electorate who had the opportunity to say 'we don't accept that apology', I believe they said 'we do accept that apology, and we are prepared to move on'," he said.

"I must say I am delighted with that, delighted with the unwavering support I have received from my constituents. Hopefully now we can move on and get on with the real job I am elected to do."

Mr Paisley said his political opponents had failed, adding: "My detractors had every opportunity to achieve a very low threshold of 10% of the electorate, they had every opportunity to gang together from across parties, which they did, and they couldn't muster 10% of the electorate to sign that petition.

"This was the easiest process to be involved in, you could have done this from your living room, you didn't have to go out to a polling station.

"Of course there will be a menu of reasons for why they took that view but I think people thought we are going to stick with the MP we have. I do take that as an endorsement but I don't take it as a 'congratulations, well done'."

He continued: "I will go back to Westminster on the second week of November and all of the crucial votes post-Brexit will be after that anyway, so I do miss the 30 sitting days and I lose my salary for that, which is my financial punishment and I have to accept that.

"I will continue to do the job I have been elected to do and I hope the people will respect me for doing that."

Mr Paisley also revealed he had contacted the PSNI over alleged breaches of the electoral law.

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
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/04/98 Ian paisley junior left pictured with his father during the Drumcree stand off in 1996
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]
PACEMAKER BELFAST 26/06/98 "Brothers in Arms" DUP leader Ian paisley and son Ian jnr pictured at the Ballymoney count after both were elected. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON/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

There are strict rules over what can be said or published during the six weeks the petition is open which, if broken, can carry potential fines and prison terms.

The Electoral Office contacted Sinn Fein North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan over a video he posted to social media earlier this week. Mr McGuigan denies any wrong-doing.

Mr Paisley said: "A number of people have breached section 124 of the election law and I have raised at least three specific complaints about individuals with police.

"It's up to police now to take that forward. I know if I had breached the law in that way, the same people would be asking questions."

A PSNI spokesman said: "Police have received a report in relation to comments made on social media. Enquiries are ongoing."

Mr Paisley was suspended from Westminster for failing to declare two luxury holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

The DUP announced that Mr Paisley had been readmitted to the party on Tuesday but would be barred from holding office within the party for a year.

"The internal processes surrounding these matters have been completed," a party spokesman said.

"On Tuesday, September 18 Mr Paisley was readmitted to membership of the party following a suspension of 57 days and upon readmission he is subject to a number of conditions including a ban on holding office within the party for 12 months.

"The party will be making no further comment on these matters."

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