Ian Paisley readmitted to the DUP following investigation into his conduct
Sinn Fein blasted the decision by the DUP as a ‘failure’
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, who narrowly survived the first ever Westminster recall petition, has been readmitted to the Democratic Unionist Party .
Mr Paisley was suspended following a critical report by the parliamentary watchdog over lobbying on behalf of Sri Lanka after accepting holidays from its government.
His re-admittance to the party which his father helped to found was announced hours after he survived the bid to oust him.
The petition failed to attract the support of 10% of his constituents – the number required to force a by-election.
Sinn Fein’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill criticised the decision by the DUP as a “failure” and an “effective endorsement of his actions”.
The recall petition was initiated after Mr Paisley was suspended as an MP for 30 sitting days by the House of Commons Committee on Standards.
It found that a year after failing to declare the luxury holidays Mr Paisley lobbied prime minister David Cameron not to support a UN probe into alleged Sri Lankan human rights abuses.
On Thursday, the DUP announced that Mr Paisley had been re-admitted on Tuesday but would be barred from holding office within the party for a year.
“The internal processes surrounding these matters have been completed,” a DUP spokesman said.
“On Tuesday 18th September Mr Paisley was readmitted to membership of the party following a suspension of fifty-seven days and upon re-admission he is subject to a number of conditions including a ban on holding office within the party for twelve months.
“The party will be making no further comment on these matters.”
Ms O’Neill has criticised the party’s decision.
“The DUP has effectively endorsed a gross lack of integrity in public office by accepting Ian Paisley back into the party with only a minor sanction,” she said.
“There was no hint of an apology from the DUP. Instead, he has been welcomed back into the DUP fold.
“That represents another failure on behalf of the DUP and is an effective endorsement of his actions.
“The DUP failed to take the appropriate action, which would have been to sack Ian Paisley.”
Speaking to the Press Association in Ballymena on Thursday morning, Mr Paisley said he wants to move on.
“I was asked to make an apology, I gave that apology, and I believe that 90.6% of the electorate who had the opportunity to say ‘we don’t accept that apology’, I believe they said ‘we do accept that apology, and we are prepared to move on’,” he said.
“I must say I am delighted with that, delighted with the unwavering support I have received from my constituents. Hopefully now we can move on and get on with the real job I am elected to do.”
Mr Paisley said he felt “humbled and privileged” and also hailed his family and “true friends” for sticking by him.
He also revealed he has made three complaints to police over allegations electoral law was broken over the failed recall petition.
There are rules over what can be said or published during the six weeks the petition is open, which if broken can carry potential fines and prison terms.
Northern Ireland’s chief electoral officer Virginia McVea has already warned Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan over a video he posted to social media.
Mr Paisley said: “A number of people have breached section 124 of the election law and I have raised at least three specific complaints about individuals with police.
“It’s up to police now to take that forward. I know if I had breached the law in that way, the same people would be asking questions.”
Mr Paisley would have been ousted as an MP if 10% of the electorate in his constituency – 7,543 voters – signed the petition. In the event, 7,099 people signed it (9.4%).
Speaking on Wednesday, Mr McGuigan said he found the warning from Ms McVea “incredible”.
He said: “I do not believe there was anything in the post that predicted the outcome of the petition.”