MP from the democratic Union, Ian Paisley faced the first parliamentary petition revocation, because it was introduced legislation to allow voters to oust unruly politicians.
Paisley was suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days after acting as a “paid advocate” for Sri Lanka and lobbying on its behalf, while failing to register that its government had paid for his family to go on holiday twice.
This triggered the recall procedure and should 10% of the electorate, or 7,543 people, sign a petition over the next six weeks then a byelection will be held in North Antrim.
Paisley said he had already apologised for his “unintentional failure” to register the hospitality, which he estimated was worth £50,000.
Paisley succeeded his father as MP for the constituency in 2010 and has said he would stand in a byelection if one is called. Given that his majority is more than 20,000, some might consider it unlikely that he would lose any subsequent byelection.
A report by the Commons standards committee found that Paisley’s actions “were of a nature to bring the House of Commons into disrepute”, after it emerged that he had breached the rules on paid advocacy.
After he received the holiday’s from the Sri Lanka’s government, he wrote to David Cameron on 19 March 2014 to lobby against supporting a UN resolution on human rights abuses in the south Asian country.
He also breached rules by failing to declare the personal benefit in his letter to the prime minister, and on the register of interests.
Under the Recall of MPs Act, which came into effect in 2016, MPs who are convicted of a criminal offence and jailed, barred from the Commons for 10 sitting days or convicted of providing false information on allowance claims can lose their seat if there is a successful petition to recall them.
Last week, Sinn Féin Northern Ireland assembly member Philip McGuigan said he had written to the electoral office to demand it puts in place the maximum number of voting centres and introduces more flexible voting times.
“The decision by the electoral office to locate petitions in only three locations in a large rural constituency like North Antrim is extremely disappointing and greatly reduces people’s ability to reject Ian Paisley’s disgraceful behaviour,” he said.
“Some people will have to travel up to 20-25 miles to vote in one of these three centres and those who work outside of the constituency won’t have time to vote outside of working hours.”
McGuigan said the number of voting centres for the Paisley petition was significantly lower than for last year’s general election, when there were 94 ballot across 49 locations.
He added that some people would feel uncomfortable signing the petition at the Ballymoney centre in Country Antrim because of the area’s strong unionist influence.