MP Ian Paisley faces by-election threat as recall petition opens
A petition that could see Ian Paisley dumped as an MP over an expenses rules breach opens today.
A 'recall' procedure is being used for the first time in UK parliamentary history after the North Antrim MP was suspended for 30 days for failing to declare two luxury family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.
Under legislation introduced in 2016, a by-election will be triggered if 10% of the 75,478 registered voters iin the constituency sign the recall petition.
Mr Paisley was a DUP MP but the party suspended the whip while officials probe the expenses rules breach.
The trips to Sri Lanka included seven helicopter flights and hospitality for the MP's family worth tens of thousands of pounds.
He later lobbied then-Prime Minister David Cameron against supporting a UN resolution on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka - again without disclosing the trips.
In a statement to the Commons in July, Mr Paisley apologised, saying his failure to register the trips was a “genuine mistake” and he had no “ulterior motive”.
After MPs voted to suspend him he vowed to fight any by-election, saying: "I will not go quietly into the night."
Voters have six weeks from today to sign the petition that would trigger a by-election in the Northern Irish seat.
Opponents in Sinn Fein said they were confident that they would get the approximately 7,700 signatures needed to force Mr Paisley to resign his parliamentary seat.