Political news

Ian Paisley's DUP suspension was lifted a day before recall petition ended

Ian Paisley has avoided a fight for his North Antrim seat. File picture by Stephen Davison

IAN Paisley was re-admitted to the DUP just a day before voting in a recall petition ended, it has emerged.

The party only announced his suspension had been lifted yesterday, hours after the result in the petition was announced.

The North Antrim MP narrowly avoided a fight for his seat after fewer than 10% of his constituents signed the petition to force a by-election.

The unprecedented vote was triggered after Mr Paisley received a 30-day suspension from the House of Commons for failing to register two luxury family holidays to Sri Lanka which were paid for by the country's government.

 

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Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill hit out at the party's handling of the scandal and said Mr Paisley should have been sacked for showing "a gross lack of integrity in public office".

Ian Paisley with DUP leader Arlene Foster ahead of a party manifesto launch. File picture by Mal McCann

A DUP spokesman said Mr Paisley's party membership remains subject to conditions but only stated one of these - a ban on holding a DUP office for 12 months. He added it would make no further comment.

"On Tuesday 18th September Mr Paisley was readmitted to membership of the party following a suspension of 57 days and upon re-admission he is subject to a number of conditions including a ban on holding office within the party for twelve months," he said.

 Ian Knox offers his take on DUP leader Arlene Foster welcoming Ian Paisley back into the party after 57 days of suspension

The petition - the first in UK parliamentary history - needed 7,543 signatures to trigger a by-election. However, it fell short of that total by 444 signatures.

Hours after the result was announced early yesterday, Mr Paisley said he would "humbly accept" the outcome.

"90.6% of them said we're keeping you big fella. We like ya," he later told the BBC.

He said he had already apologised to the House of Commons and has had his salary docked for the duration of his 30-day suspension from Parliament.

He added: "I can't win in terms of my personality. Some people will take the view that his confidence and his self assurance that people want in their public representative is portrayed by others as arrogance."

Mr Paisley said his opponents saw the petition as a means to oust him.

"This was their big chance and as it turned out my constituents knew better than the propaganda that was being fed to them by others," he said.

DUP MP Ian Paisley's Twitter biography

Mr Paisley updated his Twitter biography to reflect the win yesterday.

"90.6% support from recall petition," he wrote.

He also revealed yesterday he has made several complaints to the PSNI over allegations three people broke electoral rules.

"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.

Section 124 prohibits the publication of exit polls on the recall petition.

It also prohibits the publication of the names of any signatories before the vote has been announced - even if they publicly announce they have done so.

A police spokeswoman said officers had "received a report in relation to comments made on social media".

"Enquiries are ongoing," she said.

The Irish News can now report that the signatories included Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann; TUV leader Jim Allister; Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan and SDLP councillor Declan O'Loan.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill Ian Paisley should have been sacked over the Sri Lanka holidays scandal. Picture by Mal McCann

Ms O'Neill insisted the DUP should have apologised for Mr Paisley's behaviour.

"The DUP is very fond of pontificating to others but when it came to dealing with its own wrongdoing, it failed to take the appropriate action, which would have been to sack Ian Paisley," she said.

Mr O'Loan said many voters were "put off" by a belief Mr Paisley would win any by-election.

"The weak support from unionist parties for the petition is further evidence of our divisions - they felt that going against Paisley would ultimately rebound on them," he said.

Mr Swann cautioned Mr Paisley not to see the result as a "victory".

"He should demonstrate some humility," he said.

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