Northern Ireland news

North Antrim recall petition to open on Wednesday August 8

The petition that could see Ian Paisley ousted from his Westminster seat will open on Wednesday August 8. Picture by Mal McCann

SIGNING of the petition that could force Ian Paisley to resign his Westminster seat is expected to begin on Wednesday August 8.

The north's chief electoral officer, Virginia McVea, also confirmed that there are 75,478 people registered to vote in the North Antrim constituency – meaning 7,547 must sign the petition for the shamed DUP MP to have to step down ahead of a by-election.

Last week Mr Paisley received an unprecedented suspension of 30 sitting days from the House of Commons for failing to declare two luxury family holidays to Sri Lanka, paid for by its government.

The North Antrim MP subsequently lobbied on behalf of the south Asian island's regime, writing to then prime minister David Cameron in 2014 urging him not to support a United Nations investigation into human rights abuses.

Ian Knox cartoon July 20 2018 - Ian Paisley apologises to parliament, party and constituents, but not to Sri Lankans

Mr Paisley has also been suspended by the DUP "pending further investigation into his conduct".

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

Up to 10 venues will be opened across the North Antrim constituency for six weeks to enable people to sign their names in the first recall petition in UK parliamentary history.

Ms McVea has confirmed that no rolling tally of the number of signatures will be published during the process, meaning it will not be after September 19, when the petition closes, that Mr Paisley will learn his fate.

Meanwhile, a Sri Lankan MP has claimed the two lavish holidays Mr Paisley and his family enjoyed in 2013 cost its government £214,000 – more than twice what the Daily Telegraph claimed when it initially revealed details of the trips and four times the North Antrim MP's own estimate.

Bimal Rathnayake told his parliament the Paisley visits were sanctioned by the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

He claimed at least five other British MPs had received similar hospitality from the Colombo regime.

Mr Ratnayake called for an investigation to establish who sanctioned the trips.

Read more: 

July 25 2018: If 10% of North Antrim constituents sign a recall petition, Ian Paisley will have to fight a by-election


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