Belfast Telegraph

DUP MP Paisley defends £6k charity trip - he had 'business either side of New York event'

The DUP's Ian Paisley has again defended billing a charity almost £6,000 for attending a Good Friday Agreement 20th anniversary event.

He also explained his attendance at an event highlighting the persecution of Christians around the world. It was organised by Open Doors which says the levels of persecutions against those of the Christian faith in the Maldives is "very high" and in Sri Lanka is "high".

Speaking to The Irish News on Wednesday night, Mr Paisley reiterated to the paper he had to take business class flights to the conference in New York because of the shortness of the trip and all costs were agreed in advance between him and the organisers.

He explained he had business in Westminster and a DUP fundraising dinner in Ballymena either side of the event.

“My engagements at either side in London and my constituency, the shortness of time in New York city explain the costs of a business class flight,” he said.

“Everything was agreed with the organiser in advance and paid directly to the service providers.”

He also said he was asked to attend after someone else had pulled out.

Mr Paisley has said he travelled "at the last minute" although he was listed as attending the event 15 days prior to travelling. He also said a sponsor of the event paid for the travel.

The DUP told the Irish News the North Antrim MP attended the conference in a personal capacity and it was not involved in making his arrangements.

On attending the Open Doors report launch in Westminster about the persecution of Christians around the world, Mr Paisley added: "It is possible to understand and encourage political and economic developments in foreign countries and at the same time object to the treatment of minority faith groups there.”

Last year Mr Paisley was suspended from the Commons for 30-sitting days for failing to declare two holidays in Sri Lanka paid for by its government and for lobbying on its behalf.

Questions were also raised after a BBC Spotlight investigation into a holiday he and his family took to the Maldives should have been declared. However, Mr Paisley denied he had to declare the trip as it was paid for by himself and a friend who had no ties to his work.

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