Belfast Telegraph

More heat on DUP as Paisley labelled 'independent'

By Michael Sheils McNamee

The DUP is facing fresh calls to spell out its position on suspended North Antrim MP Ian Paisley.

Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan called for clarity after it emerged that Mr Paisley's party affiliation has been changed to 'independent' on Parliament's website following his suspension from the DUP.

A House of Commons spokesperson said the change of status was a reflection of the fact he is suspended, and does not mean Mr Paisley has left the party.

It is understood the action was taken by the House of Commons without contact from the DUP.

Similar action has been taken with other parliamentarians suspended from their parties.

Mr McGuigan said: "The DUP leadership have serious questions to answer over the Ian Paisley scandal and the latest debacle over his status as an MP only adds to the need for clarity."

"The DUP leadership still refuse to say how long he is suspended for or to provide any details into the investigation they say they are conducting into his activities."

The DUP has said little on Mr Paisley, other than a brief statement issued at the time of his suspension from the party, in which it said it took the matter very seriously.

Mr Paisley's suspension from Parliament follows a Commons watchdog report into his acceptance of holidays worth tens of thousands of pounds from the government of Sri Lanka.

Mr Paisley and his family made two visits to Sri Lanka in March/April 2013 and July 2013.

Mr Paisley made a further visit to the tropical island in November 2013 without his family, but also paid for by the Sri Lankan government, to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. This third solo visit was registered with Parliament, but the first two were not.

The report concluded: "The reason why the third visit was registered and the two earlier ones were not, was that Mr Paisley was conscious of the potential embarrassment that would be caused to him were it to become publicly known that he had accepted very expensive hospitality, for himself and his family, from a foreign government accused of serious human rights violations."

Mr Paisley apologised "unreservedly" for failing to disclose the hospitality he received, saying he had made a "genuine mistake".

North Antrim voters must now decide if they wish to ditch Ian Paisley as MP.

A notice published in today's Belfast Telegraph from the Electoral Office sets in motion the recall procedure which could see a by-election.

If 10% of voters - approximately 7,700 in the constituency - sign the petition to recall Mr Paisley, the seat will be declared vacant and a poll held.

The petition period will run from next Wednesday, August 8, to September 19.

The Electoral Office says there will be three places in the constituency where eligible voters can sign the recall petition.

These are the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre in Ballymoney; the Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena; and Sheskburn House Recreation Centre in Ballycastle.

The petition will be available for signature from Monday to Friday during the period between 9am and 5pm, and up to 9pm on September 6 and 13.

Belfast Telegraph

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