Political news

Ian Paisley makes complaints to police over claims electoral law broken in failed recall petition

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley has complained to police over allegations electoral law was broken in the recall petition
Press Association

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley has made three complaints to police over allegations electoral law was broken in the failed recall petition to oust him.

Westminster's first ever recall petition was triggered after Mr Paisley was suspended from the House of Commons for failing to declare two family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government, for which he later lobbied.

He would have been ousted as an MP if 10% of the electorate in his North Antrim constituency - 7,543 voters - signed the petition over the six weeks it was open.

In the event, it was announced after a count early this morning that only 7,099 people signed it (9.4%).

The DUP later announced it was readmitting Mr Paisley to the party following a suspension of 57 days, a decision criticised by Sinn Féin.

The MP is also serving a suspension of 30 sitting days from the House of Commons imposed by its committee on standards.

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Hours before the recall petition closed yesterday, Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan said he was asked to remove a video from social media in which he urged people to vote.

Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan criticised the Electoral Office's handling of the recall petition against DUP MP Ian Paisley. Picture by Mal McCann

Mr McGuigan's video suggested that that vote was "on a knife-edge".

Electoral rules prohibit the publication of exit polls on the recall petition.

They also ban the publication of the names of anyone who has signed it - even if they publicly announce they have done so.

The Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena was one of three venues where the petition to oust Ian Paisley could be signed. Picture by Mal McCann

Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea said she telephoned Mr McGuigan after receiving "various complaints about the tweet".

"He was aware that it was a criminal matter - not something for us but for the PSNI," she said.

"I did advise him it would be better if he took it down."

Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea revealed the result of the recall petition

Mr McGuigan removed the video but described the warning as "incredible".

"I do not believe there was anything in the post that predicted the outcome of the petition," he said.

Mr Paisley told the Press Association today that he has made "at least three" complaints to the PSNI over allegations electoral law was broken.

"A number of people have breached section 124 of the election law and I have raised at least three specific complaints about individuals with police," he said.

"It's up to police now to take that forward. I know if I had breached the law in that way, the same people would be asking questions."

Asked about the complaints, A PSNI spokesman said: "Police have received a report in relation to comments made on social media. 

"Enquiries are ongoing."

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