Belfast Telegraph

Ian Paisley billed charity £6k for first class trip to New York

DUP MP Ian Paisley billed a charity almost £6,000 to fly to a conference in New York, it has emerged.

Other political figures who travelled to the event, which was held to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, flew in the much cheaper economy class, The Irish News has reported.

The conference was organised by Cooperation Ireland, an all-island peace-building charity that encourages dialogue and collaboration between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

According to his parliamentary register of interests, Mr Paisley claimed back £5,925.11 from the charity for his flights following the event, which was held in February last year.

The DUP MP spoke on a panel at the "20 Years of Peace" conference alongside former SDLP MP Mark Durkan and ex-Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty. The Republic's Tanaiste Simon Coveney also gave a speech at the event.

According to their respective parties, all three flew in the economy class - which can be as much as 10 times cheaper than the luxurious first class.

Attendees were asked to pay their travel costs up-front, which they could later claim back from Cooperation Ireland.

It is understood that participants travelling to the conference were told to bear in mind that Cooperation Ireland is a charity and the arrangement was done on a "trust" basis.

SDLP MLA John Dallat said it was "truly shameless" for a public representative to accept luxury flights from charity.

""This increasing trend by Ian Paisley Jr to travel in style – but not at his own expense – truly does strip him of the integrity that his office is befitting of," he added.

In July last year, MPs voted to suspend Mr Paisley from the House of Commons for 30 sitting days for failing to declare two familiy holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government in 2013, estimated to be worth around £50,000.

Then in December, it emerged that the DUP MP was given a complimentary family holiday to the Maldives in 2016, which he also did not declare.

BBC Spotlight alleged the visit was requested by the Maldivan government and facilitated by the resort owner, who had political links, while Mr Paisley said he paid for part of the trip, while a friend paid for the rest.

In relation to the New York trip, a Sinn Fein spokesperson said: "Mr Paisley has a much-publicised penchant for travel at the expense of the taxpayer and others."

"This includes the government of Sri Lanka which was guilty of the most horrific human rights abuses. Mr Paisley seems to believe that his role as an MP gives him a ticket to ride with lavish benefits and perks."

The DUP has been contacted for a request for comment.

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