Ian Paisley by-election recall process cost £188,000

Virginia McVea defended the recall process from Sinn Fein criticisms
Virginia McVea defended the recall process from Sinn Fein criticisms

The recall petition which failed to unseat Ian Paisley cost the public purse around £188,000, it has emerged.

The Electoral Office revealed the costings yesterday after the process – the first of its kind in the UK – came to an end after six weeks.

It is understood the bulk of the costs related to staffing the three centres where people could sign the petition in Ballymena, Ballymoney and Ballycastle.

DUP MP Mr Paisley retained his seat after 7,099 people signed, 444 short of the required number. A total of 14 of the papers lodged were deemed void or rejected for uncertainty.

Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan has blamed the Electoral Office for the failure of the petition, stating that it did not open enough centres to enable people to sign.

He also claimed the opening hours of the three centres were too restrictive.

But Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea defended the process and said the body had gone “over and beyond” to ensure it was accessible.

She added: “The process took place over 30 days, with two late nights at the centres and postal vote on demand, which has never happened before. It was simply unprecedented.”

The Electoral Office has not yet released the number of postal votes lodged.

Responding to claims by Mr McGuigan that the Electoral Office did not run an effective public awareness campaign, Ms McVea said: “It is for the Electoral Office to facilitate people exercising their democratic right. It is not for us to drum up business so to speak. It is for political parties to campaign.”