Belfast Telegraph

Complaints process around Ian Paisley Maldives holiday 'confidential'

Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley

Any investigation into complaints made to a parliament watchdog about a holiday taken by the DUP's Ian Paisley to the Maldives must remain confidential, it has been revealed.

The BBC has reported that SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Sinn Fein North Antrim MLA Phillip McGuigan made complaints to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner over Mr Paisley's conduct.

The commissioner has responded to the politicians, but they have been warned that by revealing details of the correspondence they could be in breach of parliamentary privilege.

Last year MPs approved changes to the complaints and grievance processes at Westminster meaning that the Standards Commissioner can no longer reveal details of inquiries, or name MPs under investigation.

The results of any investigation will only be made public after the investigation has been completed.

Mr Eastwood said he thought the new rule was a "disgrace" and called for changes.

"I don't see how it serves the democratic interest at all," he told the BBC.

North Antrim MP Paisley had a five-night family holiday at a luxury Maldives resort months after advocating on behalf of the country's government.

The trip took place in October and November 2016, and was not declared on Parliament's Register of Members' Interests.

In February 2016 the DUP MP visited the Maldives with two other MPs from an all-party parliamentary group.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

Despite the Maldives Government being criticised for human rights abuses at the time, Mr Paisley appeared to advocate on behalf of the regime, arguing against economic sanctions.

BBC NI's Spotlight programme said its evidence suggests that full board and transfers for the family visit by Mr Paisley, his wife and two sons eight months later were provided complimentarily at the request of the Maldivian Government.

Mr Paisley claimed he paid for part of that holiday and the rest was paid for by a friend, whose identity he did not disclose.

He said the friend was unconnected with his work and had received no benefit as a result of his work.

Spotlight's allegations came just weeks after Mr Paisley returned to the House of Commons following a 30-day suspension for failing to declare two 2013 family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan Government.

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