Three centres will be opened in North Antrim at 9am next Wednesday, August 8, for members of the electorate who wish to sign a petition to remove Ian Paisley as MP.
The Electoral Office for Northern Ireland has posted the following message on their website, titled ‘Public Notice of Petition to Remove the MP for North Antrim, Ian Paisley’.
It says the petition signing period is from 9am Wednesday 8 August 2018 to 5pm Wednesday 19 September 2018
The message continued: “There will be a petition to decide whether Ian Paisley, the MP for North Antrim should lose his seat as an MP and a by-election held to decide who would be the MP for that constituency.
“The petition has been started because Ian Paisley MP has been suspended from
sitting in the House of Commons for thirty days for breaching the code of conduct
“The designated petition signing places are located at:
Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre, 33 Garryduff Road, Ballymoney, BT53 7DB
Seven Towers Leisure Centre, 74 Trostan Avenue, Ballymena, BT43 7BL
Sheksburn House Recreation Centre, 7 Mary Street, Ballycastle, BT54 6QH
“These will be open for signing Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, as well as on 6 and 13
September 2018 to 9pm.
“A person is eligible to sign the petition if they are a registered parliamentary elector
for the constituency, aged 18 or over (or the date of their 18th birthday is before the
end of the signing period) and the person would be entitled to vote as an elector at
a parliamentary election in the constituency.
“You can apply to sign by post or proxy. Applications can be downloaded from our
General Enquiries: 028 9044 6600
Virginia McVea (Petition Officer), Electoral Office NI, St Anne’s House,
15 Church Street, Belfast, BT1 1ER
Mr Paisley was re-elected at the North Antrim election count at the Seven Towers Leisure Centre last year.
Ulster Unionist Party Leader, Robin Swann MLA, expressed his disappointment that the Chief Electoral Officer has decided to open only three recall petition centres across North Antrim. He has also criticised the restricted opening times of 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday, with only two evening sessions.
Mr Swann has also confirmed that as a North Antrim constituent he will be signing the recall petition.
He said: “Not only are three petition centres totally inadequate for a constituency the size of North Antrim, by restricting the opening hours to mainly 9am-5pm from Monday-Friday the Electoral Office have shown little regard to people in daytime employment.
“I suspect that this very limited provision, both in terms of locations and timings, will lead to a larger than usual request for postal votes, and whether rightly or wrongly, this may well lead to accusations of voter identity abuse.
“The Ulster Unionist Party will not register as a campaigner during the recall petition, but we would encourage any North Antrim electors who think what Ian Paisley did was wrong to sign the petition and allow the entire North Antrim electorate to have their say.
“As a North Antrim constituent I will be signing the petition as I believe the findings of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards are so serious and go to such an extent that the only option is for a by-election to be called.”
Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has said the Electoral Office’s decision to open only three centres with limited opening hours is extremely disappointing.
The North Antrim MLA said: “It is extremely disappointing that the Electoral Commission has decided to only open three centres with limited opening hours for the recall petition.
“This is simply not good enough.
“It greatly reduces people’s ability to reject the disgraceful behaviour of Ian Paisley in accepting lavish family holidays from the Sri Lankan government before lobbying against a UN investigation into war crimes and human rights abuses.
“North Antrim is a large constituency and Sinn Féin proposed that the recall petition should be available in as many as ten local government offices.
“I would urge the Electoral Commission to provide more centres and more flexible opening times to ensure that the democratic process is not subverted.”
Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme: “I could have opened one venue or I could have opened ten.
“This runs for a lengthy period – six weeks and during that period I determined that it would be reasonable to expect people to be able to reach these three venues.
“In addition there is a change in the law in relation to the postal application.
“Anyone who chooses not to attend in person will be able to apply for the postal option and if their details are verified, can receive it within six weeks.”