Belfast Telegraph

I expect high standards of those in public office: Paisley's Maldives holiday to be considered 'soon' by party officers, says Arlene Foster

DUP MP insists Maldives government did not pay for his trip and he had no need to declare it to Parliament

DUP's Arlene Foster with Ian Paisley MP.
DUP's Arlene Foster with Ian Paisley MP.
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said party officers will examine the claims arising from BBC NI Spotlight over Ian Paisley's family holiday to the Maldives soon, saying she expects high standards from political representatives.

The North Antrim MP has faced growing calls to resign for not declaring a lavish family holiday in the Maldives to authorities in parliament. 

The BBC's Spotlight programme alleged the trip was paid for by the Indian Ocean nation's government.

Mr Paisley denied the holiday was paid for by the Maldives government, instead insisting an unnamed friend part-funded the 2016 vacation.

The DUP has pledged to examine the “very serious” claims levelled in the investigation.

Arlene Foster said that would happen "soon".

"I expect and the public expect high standards of those of us who are in public life," she told the BBC.

"I think it is important that we hold to those high standards.

"Let us look at this issue in the party officers I think that is the right forum to all of do that and we will be doing that soon."

Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Ulster Unionists have written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone urging her to investigate the case.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP said Mr Paisley should resign and, if he did not, DUP leader Arlene Foster was obliged to take action against him.

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister urged Mr Paisley to self-refer himself to the standards commissioner. It is unknown whether she is investigating the latest claims, as she is prevented from publicly confirming details of any probe until it concludes.

The claims aired by Spotlight came days after Mr Paisley returned to Parliament having served a 30-day suspension for failing to declare two holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government and lobbying on its behalf.

He narrowly avoided facing a by-election after Parliament’s first ever recall petition fell short of the number of constituent signatures required to oust him by 444 names.

At last month’s party conference in Belfast, DUP leader Mrs Foster apologised after acknowledging that standards of conduct within the party had fallen short in a number of areas.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle  O’Neill said: “I think that what we need to see now is more than fine words at a party conference, I think those fine words need to be acted upon and I think this will be the first test of Arlene Foster’s comments at her party conference.”

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