Sinn Fein members from outside north Antrim were present at a polling station in Ballymoney today where the petition t0 unseat Ian Paisley was opened to the public.
Several public figures claimed to have signed the petition but the News Letter is unable to identify them under the strict terms of The Recall of MPs Act 2015 (Recall Petition) Regulations 2016 which prohibit the publication of a statement by someone claiming to have signed the petition.
We are also prohibited from estimating how many people have signed the petition, meaning that it will not be known until the conclusion of the process on September 19 whether the 7,543 signatures needed to force a by-election have been gathered.
However, it can be reported that several Sinn Fein politicians, including South Belfast MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney who are not eligible to sign the petition because they do not live in the constituency were present for a press conference outside the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre in Ballymoney.
North Antrim Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan, whose party is among those urging the public to sign the petition, said: “This is an issue of integrity in government, it is not an orange and green issue.
“This is not even about nationalism versus unionism.
“This is an issue about trust in your politicians that they will do their jobs with integrity.”
Alliance North Antrim representative Patricia O’Lynn, whose party is also urging people to sign the petition, said that the people of North Antrim could “make a stand for transparent politics” by signing the recall petition.
Mr Paisley is facing the potential of losing his seat because he accepted two luxury family holidays from the Sri Lankan government, failed to declare them, and then lobbied the British government on behalf of the regime in Colombo.
The holidays – which Mr Paisley valued at about £50,000 but The Daily Telegraph, which first revealed them, estimated at about £100,000 – included business class flights, triple suites in luxury hotels, use of an E-Class Mercedes, visits to The Temple of The Tooth Buddhist relic & an elephant orphanage.