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Paisley could quit and be returned as MP before crucial Brexit votes held

Ian Paisley with his daughter Emily and young supporters at a meeting in Gracehill organised to show backing for the MP earlier this week
Ian Paisley with his daughter Emily and young supporters at a meeting in Gracehill organised to show backing for the MP earlier this week
Move: Recall petition
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Ian Paisley may consider resigning as North Antrim MP next month, unionist sources have said.

They told the Belfast Telegraph that Mr Paisley could stand down on September 4, the day the House of Commons returns from its summer recess.

His resignation would automatically end a petition of recall and would allow for a by-election as early as October 4.

With Parliament rising for the conference season, an early by-election - which Mr Paisley would be favourite to win - would limit the number of days he is absent from the House of Commons and would mean he wouldn't miss any key Brexit votes.

The North Antrim MP's absence for a longer period in October and November could cause serious problems for Theresa May's embattled minority Government in knife-edge votes.

The sources said Mr Paisley's resignation would be the "most sensible option" for the politician, as it allowed him to take control of the situation.

The DUP declined to comment on the possibility of the MP resigning next month.

"Ian Paisley is suspended from the party pending the outcome of further investigation," a spokesman said.

Mr Paisley wasn't available for comment.

The MP was suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days following a major breach of parliamentary rules.

He failed to declare two luxury holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

A petition of recall, which allows North Antrim voters to have their say on their MP, opened last week in the constituency.

If 7,543 people sign the petition - 10% of the electorate - then a by-election will be held.

The petition, which is due to run until September 19, is the first of its kind in UK parliamentary history.

Mr Paisley's suspension from the House of Commons begins on September 4, when MPs return to Westminster.

If Mr Paisley announced his resignation that day, the DUP could swiftly move the writ for the by-election, which can be held in 21 working days, allowing North Antrim to go to the polls on October 4, unionist sources said.

If he were to win the by-election as expected, Mr Paisley would only be missing from the chamber for just over a week as Parliament rises for the party conference season on September 13, and doesn't return until October 9.

He could then be back in the chamber to support Mrs May when parliamentary business resumed.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Office last night moved to allay concerns that the names of those signing the recall petition may end up in the public domain.

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

The office said the marked register wouldn't be made available to the public or the political parties after the poll closed.

Only the number of people signing and turnout will be released.

The petition can be signed at the Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena, the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre in Ballymoney, and Sheskburn House Recreation Centre in Ballycastle.

Several political parties have criticised the arrangements.

Sources told the Belfast Telegraph that the original room allocated for polling in Ballymena's Seven Towers Leisure Centre was moved after Sinn Fein complained that voters could be viewed by those in the centre's cafe.

The Ulster Unionists then complained about the new room. UUP leader Robin Swann said: "It was down two flights of stairs and through three sets of heavy fire doors. It was hard for people to find and we had obvious concerns for elderly and disabled voters. My party was in touch with the Electoral Office and voting was moved back to the original room."

Chief electoral officer Virgina McVea said: "The Electoral Office had moved voting to a second room to improve privacy. But the second room proved too awkward to access and as a result we have returned to the first room where we have satisfied any concerns about privacy."

Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan said he had "taken part in treasure hunts that have been easier" than finding the second voting room.

He also criticised a lack of signage in the Ballymoney centre yesterday.

DUP MP Ian Paisley's supporters meet to show their support.
The North Antrim politician is currently suspended by the House of Commonsafter he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government..
DUP MP Ian Paisley's supporters meet to show their support. The North Antrim politician is currently suspended by the House of Commonsafter he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government..
Alderman John Finlay welcomes Ian Paisley to the special meeting.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 13/08/2018 DUP MP Ian Paisley's supporters will meet on Monday to show their support. The North Antrim politician is currently suspended by the House of Commonsafter he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. The DUP MP apologised in the Commons, but will face a by-election if 10% of his constituents sign the petition. He is also suspended by the DUP "pending further investigation into his conduct". Young demrocrates of the DUP offerAlan Lewis of the press tea or coffee.
Press Eye - 13th August 2018 - Suspended MP Ian Paisley's supporters including John Finlay (centre) meet in Ballymena to show their support to the North Antrim politician who is currently suspended by the House of Commons after he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by Matt Mackey / Presseye.com
Press Eye - 13th August 2018 - Suspended MP Ian Paisley's supporters serve tea to journalists as supporters meet in Ballymena to show their support to the North Antrim politician who is currently suspended by the House of Commons after he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by Matt Mackey / Presseye.com
Press Eye - 13th August 2018 - Suspended MP Ian Paisley's supporters meet in Ballymena to show their support to the North Antrim politician who is currently suspended by the House of Commons after he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by Matt Mackey / Presseye.com
Press Eye - 13th August 2018 - Suspended MP Ian Paisley's supporters including Mr Paisley's daughter Emily, left, serve tea to journalists as supporters meet in Ballymena to show their support to the North Antrim politician who is currently suspended by the House of Commons after he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by Matt Mackey / Presseye.com
Press Eye - 13th August 2018 - Suspended MP Ian Paisley's supporters serve tea to journalists as supporters meet in Ballymena to show their support to the North Antrim politician who is currently suspended by the House of Commons after he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by Matt Mackey / Presseye.com
Press Eye - 13th August 2018 - Suspended MP Ian Paisley's supporters serve tea to journalists as supporters meet in Ballymena to show their support to the North Antrim politician who is currently suspended by the House of Commons after he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by Matt Mackey / Presseye.com
Press Eye - 13th August 2018 - Suspended MP Ian Paisley's supporters serve tea to journalists as supporters meet in Ballymena to show their support to the North Antrim politician who is currently suspended by the House of Commons after he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by Matt Mackey / Presseye.com
Press Eye - 13th August 2018 - Suspended MP Ian Paisley's supporters including Mr Paisley's daughter Emily, centre, serve tea to journalists as supporters meet in Ballymena to show their support to the North Antrim politician who is currently suspended by the House of Commons after he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by Matt Mackey / Presseye.com
Press Eye - 13th August 2018 - Suspended MP Ian Paisley's supporters including Mr Paisley's daughter Emily, left, serve tea to journalists as supporters meet in Ballymena to show their support to the North Antrim politician who is currently suspended by the House of Commons after he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by Matt Mackey / Presseye.com
Press Eye - 13th August 2018 - Suspended MP Ian Paisley's supporters including Mr Paisley's daughter Emily, centre, serve tea to journalists as supporters meet in Ballymena to show their support to the North Antrim politician who is currently suspended by the House of Commons after he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by Matt Mackey / Presseye.com
Press Eye - 13th August 2018 - Suspended MP Ian Paisley's supporters including Mr Paisley's daughter Emily, left, serve tea to journalists as supporters meet in Ballymena to show their support to the North Antrim politician who is currently suspended by the House of Commons after he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by Matt Mackey / Presseye.com
Press Eye - 13th August 2018 - Suspended MP Ian Paisley's supporters including Mr Paisley's daughter Emily, centre, serve tea to journalists as supporters meet in Ballymena to show their support to the North Antrim politician who is currently suspended by the House of Commons after he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by Matt Mackey / Presseye.com
Press Eye - 13th August 2018 - Suspended MP Ian Paisley's supporters including Mr Paisley's daughter Emily, left, serve tea to journalists as supporters meet in Ballymena to show their support to the North Antrim politician who is currently suspended by the House of Commons after he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by Matt Mackey / Presseye.com
Press Eye - 13th August 2018 - Suspended MP Ian Paisley's supporters including Mr Paisley's daughter Emily, left, serve tea to journalists as supporters meet in Ballymena to show their support to the North Antrim politician who is currently suspended by the House of Commons after he failed to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by Matt Mackey / Presseye.com

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