UK MP facing allegations linked to Sri Lanka visit keeps MP seat

British Parliamentarian Ian Paisley has retained his seat as an MP after fewer than 10% of his constituents signed a petition that would have forced a by-election, the BBC reported.

It was triggered after the DUP MP was suspended from Westminster for failing to declare two holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan Government.

Paisley said the electorate had “clearly spoken” and thanked his backers for their “unwavering support”.

The petition was the first in UK Parliamentary history.

It was open for six weeks at three North Antrim constituency centres. The petition needed 7,543 signatures – or 10% of Paisley’s constituents – to force a by-election and cause Mr Paisley to lose his seat.

Paisley, who lobbied on the Sri Lankan Government’s behalf after the holidays, said: “In July I apologised for a mistake made almost six years ago.

“The electorate was asked to pass judgment – 90.6% have accepted my apology.

“The electorate has clearly spoken.

“I would like to thank my true friends, family, the electorate who have stood by me with unwavering support. Hallelujah.”

The Speaker of the House John Bercow was first to be notified before the result was posted online.

Ulster Unionist Party Leader Robin Swann said he would “caution Ian Paisley not to see this as some sort of victory or endorsement of his actions in acting as a paid advocate for a foreign government and bringing North Antrim and the House of Commons into disrepute”.

He suggested that Paisley “should demonstrate some humility”.

Sinn Féin North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan said: “The issues raised by this scandal are not going away and neither are the questions for the DUP leadership.”

If the petition was to succeed then it needed the support of at least 10% of the electorate in North Antrim. It got 9.4% and was 444 signatures short.

That means Ian Paisley will remain in the seat his family has held for almost 50 years.

He wasn’t there for the count this morning but was told the news in a text from the Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea. She defended how the process was managed.

Paisley can now look forward to returning to the House of Commons, once he serves the remainder of his 30 day ban from Westminster.

Paisley’s 30-sitting day suspension from the House of Commons began on 4 September, and is one of the longest-ever bans to be handed down at Westminster. (Colombo Gazette)

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