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Sinn Féin and SDLP lead campaign to oust Ian Paisley

Ian Paisley must resign his seat if 7,547 of his constituents sign the recall petition

THE SINN Féin MLA expected to spearhead the party's campaign to unseat Ian Paisley has said he is confident of securing the 7,500 signatures that will force the shamed MP to resign.

North Antrim assembly member Philip McGuigan was speaking ahead of three venues across the constituency opening today to enable people to sign the first recall petition in UK parliamentary history.

Under legislation introduced in 2016, the signatures of 10 per cent of North Antrim's 75,478 registered electorate will force Mr Paisley to resign his seat ahead of a by-election.

Last month, the DUP MP received an unprecedented suspension of 30 sitting days from the House of Commons for failing to declare two luxury family holidays to Sri Lanka, paid for by its government.

He subsequently lobbied on behalf of the south Asian island's regime, writing to then prime minister David Cameron in 2014 urging him not to support a United Nations investigation into human rights abuses.

Mr Paisley has been suspended from the DUP while the party conducts "further investigations" into his conduct.

Constituents in North Antrim yesterday began receiving letters from chief electoral officer Virginia McVea outlining how they can sign the petition over the next six weeks.

The three venues in Ballymena, Ballymoney and Ballycastle will be open from Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm. The venues will be closed on Bank Holiday Monday August 27 but will open until 9pm on September 6 and 13.

Postal petition signing forms are available from the Electoral Office, however, applications must be submitted by September 4.

Both Sinn Féin and SDLP have confirmed that they will register as campaign groups to encourage people to put their name to the petition.

Speaking last night, Mr McGuigan said "anger" across the constituency meant he was confident of the 7,547 threshold would be met.

“People are appalled at sleaze in politics...and a series of scandals linked to the DUP going back many years," the North Antrim MLA said.

“This recall petition is an opportunity for people to have their say on all of that and I believe there is a responsibility on us to ensure that process is an accessible as possible, which is why Sinn Féin are registering as an official campaign group."

An SDLP spokesman said the party would be joining the effort to remove Ian Paisley.

"The SDLP cannot and will not accept a situation whereby elected representatives are above the rules set to ensure transparency and accountability," he said.

Last night, Ms McVea told The Irish News that she would maintaining an information campaign throughout the six weeks that the petition was open.

Read more: What is a recall petition?

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