Political news

Chief electoral officer urged to revise arrangements in event of second North Antrim recall petition

Philip McGuigan said there was potential for second recall petition in North Antrim. Picture by Mal McCann

A Sinn Féin MLA has written to the chief electoral officer to call for more venues to be made available if a 'recall petition' is ever re-run.

In the aftermath of fresh allegations relating to overseas holidays taken by Ian Paisley, speculation is mounting that Westminster's standards watchdog may again examine the North Antrim MP's conduct.

Last July, he was handed an unprecedented 30-sitting day suspension, triggering Westminster's first ever recall petition, which would have seen Mr Paisley lose his seat if 10 per cent of the registered electorate in his constituency had signed their names.

After six weeks, the total number of signatories fell 435 short of the 7543 threshold for forcing a by-election.

Sinn Féin North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan was among those who criticised the operation of the petition and in particular the use of just three venues from a possible 10 where constituents could sign.

Mr McGuigan claimed there was now potential for a second recall petition in North Antrim and that lessons needed to be learned from the last time.

"Sinn Féin raised serious concerns during the last recall petition, particularly regarding the lack of accessibility for the electorate due to the restricted opening times and the decision to open only three signing centres," he said.

He pointed to two subsequent recall petitions in England where there was a greater number of signing centres and "more generous opening times".

Chief electoral officer Virginia McVea has previously defended the operation of the North Antrim recall petition.

Mr McGuigan's comments came as it emerged that TUV councillor Timothy Gaston, who publicised his signing of the recall petition, will not be prosecuted.

The law forbids signatories from stating publicly that they have put pen to paper.

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