Northern Ireland news

Criticism for Electoral Office after Peterborough recall petition uses all ten venues

Ian Paisley survived Westminster's first ever recall petition

THE Electoral Office has again been criticised over the number of venues used in last year's North Antrim recall petition after constituents taking part in corresponding process in England were offered a choice of ten signing centres.

Ian Paisley faced the first recall petition in Westminster's history last year after being suspended as an MP for failing to declare two holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government and carrying out paid advocacy on the regime's behalf.

The recall petition, which ran from August 8 for six weeks, was available to sign at three venues in Mr Paisley's North Antrim constituency, as well as by post.

The shamed MP avoided contesting a by-election because only 7,099 people – 9.4 per cent of the registered electorate – signed the petition which needed 7,543 signatures to force Mr Paisley's resignation.

The second recall petition in parliamentary history has been opened in Peterborough to decide whether Labour MP Fiona Onasanya will keep her seat.

Ms Onasanya (35) was jailed for three months in January for perverting the course of justice after lying about a speeding offence.

However, Sinn Féin has highlighted how constituents in Peterborough have a choice of ten venues – the maximum that can be used – to sign the petition, compared to only three in the largely rural North Antrim constituency.

A Sinn Fein spokesman told The Irish News: "The Electoral Commission could have chosen to locate ten sites for a recall position across North Antrim, just as they have done in Peterborough but they refused to do so, despite the political and geographical realities of the situation on the ground in the constituency."

In a report into the North Antrim recall petition, the Electoral Commission concluded that having more centres would not have affected the result.

The Irish News offered the Electoral Office the opportunity to comment but it did not respond.

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