Northern Ireland news

Ex-Sinn Féin councillor says Ian Paisley should stay as North Antrim MP

Former Sinn Féin councillor Paul Maguire has voiced support for Ian Paisley
 

A FORMER Sinn Féin councillor has insisted he will not sign a petition to unseat Ian Paisley.

Paul Maguire, an independent councillor for Mid and East Antrim, said while he was "an Irish republican and poles apart from Mr Paisley politically", he hugely respected the DUP MP's work for North Antrim.

Mr Paisley is facing a possible by-election in North Antrim after he was suspended from the House of Commons for failing to declare two free luxury family holidays to Sri Lanka.

The suspension, which will begin next month, will last for 30 sitting days.

Voters in North Antrim can soon sign a petition to trigger a by-election.

If 7,500 signatures are gathered within a six-week period, an election will be called.

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Mr Maguire said despite the controversy Mr Paisley should remain as the area's MP.

"I've worked with Ian Paisley on planning issues and found him to be very good," he told The Irish News.

He added: "It's a very small world and we're here for a very short time. We can't fight with each other all the time."

Mr Maguire said he found Mr Paisley to be a effective advocate for the constituency.

"I have to ask - if Ian Paisley was no longer MP for North Antrim would that be better for North Antrim? We wouldn't benefit at all," he said.

"If the DUP don't select Ian Paisley and he doesn't stand as independent I think the losers would be the constituents."

Mr Maguire said Mr Paisley had worked hard to try and generate employment in North Antrim after it lost thousands of manufacturing jobs in recent years, including from the closure of the Michelin and JTI plants.

"He's a brand; he has the Paisley name; he's known globally; he has access to global leaders - who else are we going to get like that?" he said.

 Ian Paisley is facing a possible by-election in North Antrim

Earlier, Mr Maguire told the Ballymena Guardian the DUP MP had apologised for his mistake.

"I will not be signing any such petition, which is being called for by political representatives who have never worked, and will never work, as hard as Ian Paisley has for the entire North Antrim community, including Glenravel," he said.

In 2016, Mr Maguire led a string of resignations from Sinn Féin in protest at the resignation of party colleague, former North Antrim MLA Daithí McKay.

Mr McKay resigned in August 2016 amid claims he 'coached' loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson before a key session of Stormont's finance committee.

 Former Sinn Féin councillor Paul Maguire left the party in 2016

Mr Maguire added: "Sinn Féin got rid of two hard working, diligent, MLAs in Daithí McKay and Barry McElduff, not because of the obvious mistakes they made, but because it suited Sinn Féin to do so.

"I hope that the DUP are smart enough not to fall into the same trap, leaving North Antrim to suffer the consequences of Ian Paisley's mistake, which he has rightly admitted and apologised for."

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