Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin meets Electoral Office over Ian Paisley petition concerns

Suspended DUP MP Ian Paisley

SINN Féin representatives held a meeting with the Electoral Office yesterday to raise concerns over just three venues being planned for the Ian Paisley recall petition.

The six-week petition, which launches tomorrow, will allow voters in North Antrim to decide whether the suspended DUP MP must resign his seat and force a by-election.

Legislation allows for up to 10 locations where the petition can be signed, but the Electoral Office plans to open just three – in Ballymoney, Ballymena and Ballycastle.

Some parties have expressed concern, fearing that opening only three venues could impede the democratic process.

Sinn Féin's Philip McGuigan

But the Electoral Office has defended the decision, saying that voters have more time than in an election and can also apply to sign by post or proxy.

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Speaking after meeting with the Electoral Office, North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan said three centres was "simply not good enough".

"We urged the Electoral Office to rethink this decision and to provide more centres and more flexible opening times to ensure that the democratic process is not subverted," he said.

DUP leader Arlene Foster with suspended MP Ian Paisley

 Ian Knox on the Ian Paisley free holidays scandal

 Ian Knox on a recall petition in Ian Paisley's North Antrim constituency

Last month Mr Paisley received an unprecedented 30-day suspension from the House of Commons and was suspended from his party after failing to declare two luxury family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

Legislation introduced in 2016 means any MP jailed or suspended from parliament for more than 10 days can be ousted if 10 per cent of their constituency's electorate sign a petition.

A total of 75,478 people are registered to vote in North Antrim – meaning 7,547 signatures will trigger a by-election.

 

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