Sinn Fein raises Ian Paisley petition concerns with Electoral Office

A Sinn Fein delegation has held a meeting with the Electoral Office to express concerns over the planned venues for people to sign the recall petition to unseat North Antrim MP Ian Paisley.

The party believes the use of three centres with limited opening hours is insufficient and said “more must be done to ensure the democratic process is not subverted”.

Ian Paisley MP

Ian Paisley MP

The six-week petition, which opens tomorrow, allows voters in North Antrim to decide whether DUP MP Mr Paisley should lose his seat and force a by-election.

The petition will be available to sign in North Antrim’s three main towns – Ballymena, Ballymoney and Ballycastle.

But Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan said the number of venues was “simply not good enough”, pointing out that NI’s chief electoral officer had discretion to designate up to 10 locations within the constituency for the petition to be signed.

He added: “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.

“We urged the Electoral Office to rethink this decision and to provide more centres and more flexible opening times to ensure that the democratic process is not subverted.

“We also raised concerns that not all relevant information for the electorate has been adequately publicised by the Electoral Office and they have agreed to consider a further public information campaign to rectify this.”

However, the Electoral Office has highlighted that, unlike the situation with an election, any voter – not just those who can provide a legitimate reason for not being able to vote in person – will be able to apply to sign the petition by post.

The petition will be open to sign from 9am to 5pm each week day at the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre in Ballymoney, the Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena and the Sheskburn House Recreation Centre in Ballycastle.

The petition will remain open until 19 September. There will also be evening signings – something required by the legislation governing recall petitions – on September 6 and 13, when the petition can be signed up until 9pm.