Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Ian Paisley asked council to pay for £1,500 table at dinner - council chief 'embarrassed' over attendance

A Northern Ireland council chief has said how he was "very embarrassed for the reputational damage" done to his organisation after it attended a dinner hosted by DUP MP Ian Paisley.

It was also revealed the MP phoned Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council asking them to attend the event at the Tullyglass Hotel, outside Ballymena, in September 2017.

The BBC reports of a special meeting held at the council on Monday evening.

The council said its attendance at what was billed as a "business engagement dinner" would be beneficial for its guests and for the networking opportunities. It also said the sponsoring of the table was within its guidelines and the fee was paid directly to the hotel.

At Monday night's meeting DUP councillor Sam Cole said others had formed their own opinion that the event was a DUP fundraiser despite "no evidence being offered" on this and rather Mr Paisley was a "facilitator" for a business community network event.

Chief executive David Jackson was asked by SDLP councillor John Deighan whether officers from the local authority "felt let down by the creative invitation from Mr Paisley?"

Mr Jackson - while saying he did not want to pre-judge any investigation - said he was "certainly very embarrassed by the reputational damage that this has done to the council".

He confirmed decisions on any such similar attendance at future events would have to be cleared by him.

Richard Baker, director of leisure and development for the council said Mr Paisley had phoned the council with an invite to the dinner.

Both the Electoral Commission and the Audit office are considering the matter.

A decision by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to also sponsor a table for £1,500 at the same event is also being investigated.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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