Political news

ANALYSIS: Apathy rather than divine intervention ensures Ian Paisley survives

HOLIDAYS TO SRI LANKA: Ian Paisley with DUP leader Arlene Foster. The recall petition fell 444 signatures short of forcing a by-election

IN any other Westminster constituency, finding 10 per cent of the electorate who would like to see the sitting MP ousted wouldn't be especially difficult but North Antrim is very much a place apart - here the Paisley name carries weight like no other.

At the last general election, the ANPs - 'anyone but Paisley' - parties secured around 20,000 votes.

To trigger a by-election they needed little over a third of that figure. Yet there was never going to be a feasible campaign that united republicans, nationalists and unionists - both pro and anti-agreement - along with those who regard themselves as the middle ground.

However, the petition fell a decisive 444 signatures short, leaving the sitting MP to describe it as a "miracle".

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin, which threw itself most enthusiastically into campaigning, blamed the limited number of venues and opening times rather than apathy and an apparent sense among the electorate that even if there was a by-election, the result was a foregone conclusion.

Just like June 24 2016, when many people woke up regretting not having cast their vote in favour of remaining in the EU, there surely must be some who wish they'd made the effort and signed.

Given the resources republicans directed at the campaign, they should be mildly embarrassed by the outcome, however, ultimately the people of North Antrim showed they care little for what went on in Sri Lanka and have given their approval, albeit tacit, to Ian Paisley MP.

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