DUP lifts Ian Paisley suspension following recall - Sinn Fein's O'Neill says 'he should have been sacked'
The DUP have confirmed that North Antrim MP Ian Paisley's suspension from the party has been lifted.
The party have said that Mr Paisley's suspension was lifted on Tuesday September 18 - before the result of the recall petition was revealed in the early hours of Thursday morning.
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A DUP spokesperson said that Mr Paisley will be subject to a number of conditions including a ban on holding office within the party for twelve months.
He was suspended by the DUP in July after a parliamentary watchdog found that a year after receiving luxury holidays, Mr Paisley lobbied then prime minister David Cameron not to support a UN probe into alleged Sri Lankan human rights abuses.
As well as not declaring the holidays, the MP was found to have broke Commons lobbying rules.
The petition of recall process opened after Mr Paisley was given a 30 day ban from the Commons, the longest on record for any MP.
In North Antrim 7,099 people signed the recall petition over the past six weeks - 9.4% of the electorate and 444 short of the required number. Fourteen of the papers lodged were deemed void or rejected for uncertainty.
Ten percent of the North Antrim electorate was required. That was 7,543 voters.
The DUP spokesperson confirmed that the party investigation into Mr Paisley's conduct had now finished.
"Mr Ian Paisley MP was suspended from membership of the party on 24th July 2018, by the Party Officers, following publication of the report of the House of Commons Committee on Standards and pending further investigation into his conduct," the spokesperson said.
"The internal processes surrounding these matters have been completed. On Tuesday 18th September Mr Paisley was readmitted to membership of the party following a suspension of fifty-seven days and upon re-admission he is subject to a number of conditions including a ban on holding office within the party for twelve months.
"The Party will be making no further comment on these matters."
Ian Paisley said he was delighted by the "unwavering support" of his constituents.
Speaking to the Press Association in Ballymena, Mr Paisley said: "I was asked to make an apology, I gave that apology, and I believe that 90.6% of the electorate who had the opportunity to say we don't accept that apology, I believe they said we do accept that apology, and we are prepared to move on.
"I must say I am delighted with that, delighted with the unwavering support I have received from my constituents, hopefully now we can move on and get on with the real job I am elected to do."
Mr Paisley also confirmed he has made complaints to the PSNI about three people over allegations they broke the electoral law.
"A number of people have breached section 124 of the election law and I have raised at least three specific complaints about individuals with police," he said.
"It's up to police now to take that forward. I know if I had breached the law in that way, the same people would be asking questions."
Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O'Neill slammed the DUP for not sacking Mr Paisley.
She said: "He displayed a gross lack of integrity in public office through these actions. Despite this, there was no hint of an apology from the DUP to either the people of North Antrim or the Tamil population.
“Instead, he has been welcomed back into the DUP fold.
“That represents another failure on behalf of the DUP and is an effective endorsement of his actions.
“The DUP is very fond of pontificating to others but when it came to dealing with its own wrongdoing, it failed to take the appropriate action, which would have been to sack Ian Paisley.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital