Shamed Ian Paisley stays as MP after recall petition falls just 444 votes short

Shamed Ian Paisley will STAY as an MP despite bringing the House of Commons into disrepute after the first "recall petition" of its kind fell just 444 votes short.

The DUP veteran, who is currently suspended from the party, thanked his "true friends" and the "unwavering support" of North Antrim voters despite more than 7,000 signing the bid to trigger a by-election.

Mr Paisley Jr faced the historic ballot after he was suspended from the Commons for a record 30 days for "serious misconduct".

A watchdog ruled he failed to register two luxury 2013 trips with his family to Sri Lanka, paid for by the country’s government, within 28 days.

The Standards Committee said he later engaged in "paid advocacy", when he wrote to then-PM David Cameron opposing a UN bid to probe alleged human rights violations in the country.

"We have concluded that Mr Paisley’s actions were of a nature to bring the House of Commons into disrepute," the committee said earlier this year.

"We conclude that Mr Paisley has committed serious misconduct."

Mr Paisley would have been ousted as an MP if 10% of the electorate in his North Antrim constituency – 7,543 voters – signed the petition. In the event 7,099 people signed it (9.4%).

The petition was created in 2015 following the Westminster expenses scandal and is triggered automatically if MPs are suspended for a certain amount of time.

In a statement to the Press Association today, Mr Paisley said the "electorate had spoken".

"In July I apologised for a mistake made almost six years ago."

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"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 long-standing Democratic Unionist, whose late father the Reverend Ian Paisley founded the party, is currently suspended from the DUP pending its own internal investigation into his conduct.

Three centres were opened in North Antrim for the last six weeks to give voters the opportunity to sign the petition.

Constituents were also able to put their name to the petition via post.

Northern Ireland’s Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea announced the outcome in Belfast around 1.25am on Thursday morning after a count that commenced at midnight.

"The petition has not been successful," she said.

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