Sinn Féin vows to unseat Ian Paisley
SINN Féin last night vowed to focus its efforts on ousting Ian Paisley from his North Antrim seat after MPs backed his suspension from Westminster.
The unprecedented sanction of 30 sitting days means the shamed DUP representative will be forced to resign if 7,500 of his constituents sign a petition.
It is the first time in UK parliamentary history that the 'recall petition' legislation has been applied.
A public process that will see up to 10 venues opened in North Antrim to collect signatures over a six-week period is expected to be triggered in the coming days.
Mr Paisley has vowed to fight any by-election, where he will be defending a majority of more than 20,000.
A Sinn Féin spokesman told The Irish News last night that the party's immediate focus was on unseating the incumbent.
"In the coming days we'll be supporting the effort to oust Ian Paisley from his seat though we believe the onus to act should be on the DUP," the spokesman said.
The DUP said yesterday it had suspended Mr Paisley while it carries out "further investigation into his conduct".
The son of the former party leader and first minister was sanctioned for failing to declare two luxury family holidays paid for the Sri Lankan government and then lobbying on behalf of the controversial regime.
Sir Kevin Barron, chair of the standards committee, told MPs they had concluded Mr Paisley was guilty of "serious misconduct and his actions were of a nature to bring the House of Commons into disrepute".
Mr Paisley was not present in the chamber as the sanction was formally ratified.
However, writing in his local paper yesterday, he claimed rules governing MPs' registration of gifts and hospitality were "confusing" and said he had "no intention of going quietly into the night".
Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said the DUP needed to be clear whether it would endorse Mr Paisley as a candidate in any by-election.
TUV leader Jim Allister, a former ally and friend of Mr Paisley's father, said he had "reaped what he sowed".
Former North Antrim MLA Daithí McKay said he believed the only possibility of ousting Mr Paisley was by fielding a single agreed candidate, although there was unlikely to be consensus among rival parties.
A spokesman for the Ulster Unionists said "I can't see that happening".