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DUP slams Alliance call for council meeting to discuss Ian Paisley's fundraising dinner after £1,300 fine

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Ian Paisley hosted the 2017 dinner in Ballymena

Ian Paisley hosted the 2017 dinner in Ballymena

Ian Paisley hosted the 2017 dinner in Ballymena

A DUP councillor has slammed the hosting of a special council meeting at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on Tuesday morning to discuss Ian Paisley's constituency dinner in 2017.

The DUP MP for North Antrim was fined £1,300 by the Electoral Commission last month over breaches in finance rules related to the fundraising dinner which took place at the Tullyglass hotel in Ballymena in September 2017.

The council took a table at the event. However the commission ruled it was a political donation, which public bodies are not permitted to do.

The DUP leader on Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has claimed the meeting, called by the Alliance group on the council, will cost ratepayers around £5,000.

Councillor McKeen said: “This matter has been subject to extensive scrutiny, including Freedom of Information requests and much more.

“The council’s actions were examined by the Audit Office who are satisfied and the matter is considered closed.

“Nevertheless, Alliance insisted on a special council meeting today in order to rehearse once again the North Antrim Annual Business and Community dinner three years ago."

Councillor McKeen said £1,300 has been returned to the council by Mr Paisley and that the matter could have been discussed at a full council meeting on Monday night.

“This was turned down and the party insisted it went ahead today (Tuesday) at a cost of approximately £5,000," he added.

“I am totally disgusted that at a time when people are losing jobs and council is under financial strain, working hard to provide services in a state of emergency and with around 180 staff furloughed, that Alliance would not only waste £5,000 but also divert the chief executive and senior officers from the vital job of dealing with the recovery of our economy and council services for our community.”

A council motion said the meeting was called: "In light of the Electoral Commission findings that a dinner attended by council officers and representatives in September 2017 was a party political Fundraiser."

The penalty imposed by the Electoral Commission relates to Mr Paisley accepting money from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Causeway Coast and Glens Council to purchase tables at the event.

Both councils paid £1,300 each.

The Commission ruled that each payment was a political donation.

Mr Paisley was fined £1,300 for failing to return donations from impermissible donors within a legal time limit of 30 days.

The commission said Mr Paisley offered to return the donations to both councils.

He was given until October 8 to pay the fine.

The DUP said the event was not organised by the party but by Mr Paisley as MP for North Antrim.

The Alliance Party has been approached for a response.

Belfast Telegraph