File on Ian Paisley recall petition breaches sent to PPS

Sinn Féin's Philip McGuigan posted a video urging people to sign the North Antrim recall petition. Picture by Mal McCann

A FILE on alleged breaches of the rules governing the Ian Paisley recall petition has been sent to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

The PSNI investigation related to separate social media posts by Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan and TUV councillor Timothy Gaston.

The recall petition was opened in North Antrim after Mr Paisley was banned from Westminster for 30-sitting days for failing to declare two luxury holidays to Sri Lanka and carrying out paid advocacy on behalf of the country's regime.

It ran for six weeks from August 16, but fell 444 signatures of the quota required to trigger a by-election.

While the petition was open at three venues in Mr Paisley's constituency, the DUP MP reported Mr McGuigan and Mr Gaston to police claiming they had breached electoral law by posting remarks on social media.

The Sinn Féin and TUV representatives were also contacted by chief electoral officer Virginia McVea and asked to remove posts which were said to breached electoral laws.

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Mr Gaston used social media to reveal he had signed the petition, while Mr McGuigan posted a video urging people to sign, saying the result was "on a knife-edge".

It is against the regulations to forecast or predict the outcome of the petition and to publish a statement on whether a person has signed the petition ahead of its closure.

Breaching the rules can be punishable by a fine or up to six months in jail.

At the time Mr McGuigan said: "I find it incredible I am being warned about police investigations when I do not believe there was anything in the post that predicted the outcome of the petition.

"If that is the case, are the bookmakers taking bets or the political pundits offering opinions also going to receive similar calls?"

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