Ian Paisley: ‘My recall petition concerns were listened to by electoral commission’

DUP MP Ian Paisley has said concerns he raised about the recall petition triggered by his suspension from Westminster have been “drawn on and used by” the Electoral Commission.

Mr Paisley, speaking to the News Letter after details of a letter he had written to chief electoral officer Virginia McVea about the recall petition process emerged, stressed that he is now focussed on doing the “job that I’ve been elected to do.”

20th September 2018 'Ian Paisley pictured in Ballymena. Photo credit: Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

20th September 2018 'Ian Paisley pictured in Ballymena. Photo credit: Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

In the letter, details of which were first reported by the Irish News on Thursday, Mr Paisley suggested the petition period lasted too long and that the threshold to trigger a by-election was not high enough.

The North Antrim MP had been handed a record parliamentary ban for failing to declare two lavish family trips paid for by the Sri Lankan government and then lobbying UK ministers to prevent an international inquiry into Sri Lanka’s human rights violations.

The sanction imposed on Mr Paisley by the House of Commons would have forced a by-election if 10% of North Antrim voters – about 7,600 people – signed what is known as a recall petition over the course of six weeks.

In the event, the petition fell short by 444 votes.

Following the recall petition process, the first vote of its kind anywhere in the UK, the DUP MP wrote to the chief electoral officer Virginia McVea the following day, outlining a series of observations.

“I take the view after being subject to a petition that a long period of petitioning is counterproductive, as momentum is lost for the entire event,” he wrote.

“Being the subject of a petition and getting the matter dealt with promptly and a result achieved expeditiously is I believe in the public interest as well as the personal interests and wellbeing of all those involved in the process and I would certainly articulate a need to change that part of the legislation going forward.”

Speaking to the News Letter after the publication of details of the letter by the Irish News, Mr Paisley said: “I was giving her (Virginia McVea) my views — seeing as it was the first time, I was giving her my perspective as the subject of it.

“I undrstand she used that to compile her own report for the electoral commission, who have indiciated to me that they have drawn on and used the points that were raised.”

He added: “I intend now to get on with and focus on the job that I’ve been elected to do, and that I’m very priveleged to do. That’s what I’m focussing on and I don’t intend to raise this matter further or to comment on it again.”