Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Paisley attacked over 'arrogant remarks' after Commons return - 'smaller man would have crumbled'

By Victoria Leonard

TUV leader Jim Allister has accused Ian Paisley of arrogance and of showing "absolutely no remorse" after the disgraced MP said that "many a smaller man would have crumbled" after his House of Commons suspension.

Mr Paisley was banned from the Commons for 30 sitting days for failing to declare two 2013 family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

In July, a parliamentary watchdog found that a year after the luxury holidays, Mr Paisley lobbied then Prime Minister David Cameron not to support a UN probe into alleged Sri Lankan human rights abuses during that country's civil war.

In September, a recall petition which could have cost Mr Paisley his North Antrim seat fell short of the 10% of his constituents needed to force a by-election.

The required number of signatures was 7,543, but the target wasn't reached.

Commenting on his suspension in this week's Ballymena Guardian, Mr Paisley said: "I have taken what I still consider to be a severe punishment on the chin and I also think many a smaller man would have crumbled."

North Antrim MLA Mr Allister accused Mr Paisley of displaying an "arrogant attitude" and claimed his remarks showed he had "learnt nothing" from his suspension.

"He brazenly places himself in this role, that a lesser man would have fallen under this, and I think the real response from a more responsible person would be to realise the depth of what he had wrongly done," Mr Allister stated.

"That would have been the more appropriate manner, rather than trying to brazen it out.

"He shows absolutely no remorse, it's quite brazen.

"There's no acceptance on his part of the scale of the wrong.

"The suspension blatantly wasn't more than he deserved. It obviously hasn't had much transformative impact on him," he added.

In his Ballymena Guardian interview, Mr Paisley also hit out at his critics. He told the newspaper: "Back to Westminster this week couldn't have been timed better given the activities and the intrigue.

"The parliamentary week commenced with business on Monday on the Finance Bill. The party abstained on the vote, disproving again the claim by my political opponents that my suspension would impact on crucial votes."

However, his comments were slammed as "irresponsible" by Mr Allister. "He is saying that the fact that people in North Antrim were left voiceless for 10 weeks without political representation is neither here nor there," the TUV Assembly member said.

"It is very irresponsible - North Antrim was left voiceless and voteless.

"It is flippant, and it does not reflect well on him after what he did.

"He comes out the other end in this brazen fashion."

Mr Allister continued: "The public, by not requiring a by-election, was guaranteed this arrogant attitude.

"It doesn't look like he has grown from the experience or has learnt a lesson."

Mr Paisley declined to comment when contacted by the Belfast Telegraph last night.

Last week, the PSNI confirmed that it had completed its investigation into social media posts by Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan and TUV councillor Timothy Gaston after Mr Paisley alleged that electoral law had been broken during the recent recall petition process.

A file has now been sent to the Public Prosecution Service.

Following his suspension from the House of Commons, Mr Paisley was suspended from the DUP, but that has since been lifted.

However, he is barred from holding office within the party for a year.

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