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DUP's Paisley fined over donations from two Northern Ireland councils

Public bodies should not have made the donations

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Ian Paisley

Ian Paisley

PA Wire/PA Images

Ian Paisley

The DUP MP Ian Paisley has been fined for accepting donations from two Northern Ireland councils.

The Electoral Commission found he failed to return donations from Mid & East Antrim Borough Council and Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

Mr Paisley said he acted in good faith but accepts the findings.

The councils both took tables costing £1,500 each for an event which the Electoral Commission found was a fundraiser for the DUP.

Mid & East Antrim council previously said the money was paid to the hotel where the 2017 North Antrim Annual Business and Community dinner was held.

The Conservative MP and then Environment Secretary Michael Gove was guest speaker for the event billed as a "business engagement dinner". It was later reported he apologised for his attendance as it appeared to breach his party's rules on the promotion of other parties. The DUP at the time was propping up Theresa May's minority government in the Commons.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, at the time, said the sponsoring of the table was within its guidelines.

Councils are not allowed to donate to politicians or parties and therefore Mr Paisley should not have accepted the money.

The North Antrim MP has offered to return the money and has been given until October 8 to pay fines totaling £1,300.

The Electoral Commission determined that the donations were made "in connection with his political activities as an MP".

"A proportion of each donation was used to cover the associated costs of Mr Paisley’s annual MP constituency dinner, while another was retained by Mr Paisley for his use as part of future campaign events in his constituency" the report stated.

"Mr Paisley offered to return the donations to both donors. Given the circumstances of this case the fact that both donors are public bodies, the Commission decided that returning the donations provided an appropriate course of action. Mr Paisley has agreed to do so.

"We also considered that it was proportionate and in the public interest to impose sanctions on Mr Paisley for his failure to return the donations to each respective donor within 30 days as required."

Louise Edwards, the commissions director of regulation, added: "The reporting requirements are clear, so it is always disappointing when they are not met. It is vital that voters are given an opportunity to see accurate and timely data on how parties and campaigners are funded.

“The commission will continue to enforce these requirements on all parties and campaigners to ensure that voters have the information they need.”

A DUP spokesman added: "This event was not organised by the party but by Ian in his capacity as Member of Parliament for North Antrim and the associated donations were received on that basis.

"Mr Paisley cooperated fully with the investigation and, while acting in good faith, he accepts the outcome of the report."

Mid & East Antrim Borough Council said it received an invitation to a North Antrim Annual Business and Community dinner hosted and facilitated by Ian Paisley and councillors agreed - without objection - to purchase a table "from the agri-food sector across the borough to avail of the opportunity to discuss first-hand with the minister their issues and concerns in relation to the agri-food sector post-Brexit".

A spokesman added: "Council was requested to make payment to The Tullyglass Hotel and did so electronically.

“Mid and East Antrim Borough Council takes its responsibilities in relation to financial prudence and accountability very seriously."

Mr Paisley and the Causeway council were also asked for a comment.

Belfast Telegraph