Sinn Fein MLA removes Ian Paisley video after claiming result on knife-edge
A Sinn Fein MLA has removed a video he posted online in which he appeared to forecast the result of the Ian Paisley recall petition.
The short clip, posted on Twitter on Tuesday, showed Phillip McGuigan urging people to sign the petition ahead of Wednesday’s 5pm deadline.
He also stated that the result was “on a knife edge”.
However, according to strict regulations pertaining to the petition, it is a criminal offence to estimate the outcome.
Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea told the News Letter she contacted Mr McGuigan on Wenesday morning and warned him that the PSNI could be asked to investigate the video.
The North Antrim MLA subsequently removed the video, and Ms McVea confirmed she had made police aware of the matter.
The Recall of MPs Act 2015 (Recall Petition) Regulations 2016 state that a person “must not, before the end of the last day of the signing period for a petition, publish— (a)any statement relating to whether any person has signed the petition where that statement is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information given by that person; or (b)any forecast as to the result of the petition which is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information so given.”
It adds that anyone who contravenes these regulations is liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a maximum of six months.
The regulations clarify that “forecast” includes estimate, and “publish” means make available to the public “in whatever form and by whatever means”.
In a statement, Mr McGuigan said: “I find it incredible I am being warned about police investigations when I do not believe there was anything in the post that predicted the outcome of the petition.”
Mr Paisley is to find out in the early hours of Thursday morning if he is to be stripped of his seat. The DUP MP was handed a record 30-day parliamentary ban for failing to declare the lavish family trips paid for by the Sri Lankan government.
His suspension triggered the recall procedure and should 10% of the North Antrim electorate sign the petition then a by-election will be held.