Belfast Telegraph

DUP faces litmus test over Ian Paisley and its attitude to abuses by Sri Lankans, warns Sinn Fein

By Suzanne Breen

Sinn Fein has said the DUP must ensure Ian Paisley resigns for lobbying in defence of a Sri Lankan regime the party claimed was responsible for "mass murder, war crimes and gross human rights abuses".

North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan said the party's response to its MP's case was a "litmus test" for its leadership.

The House of Commons is today expected to ratify the recommendation of the House of Commons Committee on Standards that the North Antrim MP be suspended for 30 days.

Mr Paisley failed to declare two luxury holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

If ratified, his suspension will be the joint longest of any MP in almost 70 years. A by-election could be held if more than 10% of constituents in North Antrim sign a petition of recall.

The DUP is expected to appoint a disciplinary panel to decide if he has broken party rules and, if so, what punishment he should face.

Mr McGuigan said: "Much of the focus of the Ian Paisley scandal has revolved around his failure to declare two lavish family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

"That is understandable, given the focus on integrity in government following the DUP's involvement in a number of scandals, including RHI, NAMA, Red Sky and dark money for Brexit.

"These have all severely damaged public confidence in the political institutions, but this latest scandal also calls into the question where the DUP stands on fundamental questions of human rights."

Mr McGuigan said Amnesty International had said that serious human rights abuses were committed by the Sri Lankan regime during the conflict there.

"Yet, after receiving his gifts from the Sri Lankan government, Ian Paisley actively lobbied the British Prime Minister to oppose a United Nations resolution to establish an international investigation into the human rights abuses in Sri Lanka," he said.

"Does the DUP leadership really believe that it is acceptable to dismiss the fact that one of its MPs lobbied in defence of a regime that carried out mass murder, war crimes and gross human rights abuses?

"This is a litmus test for the DUP leadership and, if Ian Paisley does not do the right thing and voluntarily resign, his party should compel him to do so."

The declined to comment on the Sinn Fein statement.

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has said Mr Paisley should not face any punishment from the DUP for breaching parliamentary rules. He told the BBC that his colleague would be punished "very severely" by the House of Commons and "that should be the end of the matter".

Mr Wilson said: "He has admitted that he did wrong and he has apologised to the party, to Parliament and to his constituents for that. I do not believe there should be any additional sanction imposed on him."

The DUP officer team discussed the North Antrim MP's behaviour at a meeting on Saturday, but has not yet commented on the matter.

It is expected to appoint a disciplinary panel, which could impose possible sanctions, including suspending Mr Paisley from the party, withdrawing the whip from him, or imposing a financial penalty. It is most unlikely that the DUP would expel him.

Belfast Telegraph

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