Belfast Telegraph

Paisley faces holiday claims backlash - SF and SDLP demand answers as DUP to consider 'serious issues' raised

BBC Spotlight has raised questions over whether a number of trips Mr Paisley took to the Maldives were gifts and should have been declared.

BBC Spotlight investigated a luxury holiday taken by Ian Paisley
BBC Spotlight investigated a luxury holiday taken by Ian Paisley

The DUP has said it will consider the "serious issues" raised in a BBC Spotlight investigation into its North Antrim MP Ian Paisley.

The politician is facing fresh questions over a number of trips he reportedly took to the Maldives, one of which its claimed was paid for by a former minister in Indian Ocean nation's government. Mr Paisley has not responded to the latest claims.

Sinn Fein said the BBC's latest investigation raised serious questions, while the SDLP said the allegations demanded a response from the MP.

"Ian Paisley must clarify the matters raised in the Spotlight report himself and do so urgently," said Councillor Eugene Reid.

UUP leader Robin Swann said North Antrim was in the headlines for the "wrong reasons" and TUV leader Jim Allister said the DUP could not ignore the revelations.

A DUP spokesman said: "We note the serious issues raised in the programme. The Party Officers will consider these matters within the context of our disciplinary process and any other relevant authority.

"Ian Paisley MP was suspended from the Party for 57 days. He was readmitted to membership, with conditions. Amongst other sanctions, was a ban on holding office in the party for 12 months. That ban is still in place.

"We require high standards from our elected representatives. Discipline is an internal party matter. We do not give a running commentary."

Last December BBC Spotlight raised queries over who paid for a luxury holiday the DUP MP and his family took to the Coco Bodu Hithi resort in the nation in 2016.

Mr Paisley said then that he paid for part of the holiday and the rest was paid for by a friend.

The Paisley family at home in 1988. From left to right Ian Junior, Cherith, Rhonda, Kyle. Pic Pacemaker
The Paisley family at home in 1988. From left to right Ian Junior, Cherith, Rhonda, Kyle. Pic Pacemaker
Ian Paisley hurdles a fence during canvassing for 2010 election. Pic Charles McQuillan Pacemaker
Ian Paisley with Donald Trump. The North Antrim MP has supported the US president.
Ian Paisley and Ian jnr eating buns in the campaign trail in March 1982.
Ian Paisley at the Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena after retaining his seat in the 2015 general election
Ian Paisley junior left pictured with his father during the Drumcree stand off in 1996. PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/04/98
Ian Paisley MP at a Remembrance Day commemoration in Kenya
Pacemaker Belfast - Archive Ian Paisley Jnr with "Justice for the UDR Four " at his Ravenhill office. 19-12-90 1053-90-BWC
Ian with Arlene Foster after she was made DUP party leader
9 / 6 / 17 PACEMAKER PRESS Ian Paisley Jr celebrates with his son Matthew and wife Fiona after winning his seat for North Antrim in the UK Parliamentary Elections. PICTURE MATT BOHILL PACEMAKER PRESS
Ian Paisley Jnr, whose father founded the DUP in 1971, says, 'everybody hates us but we've got the cash' [Photo: Marc McKormick, www.independent.co.uk]
Ian Paisley with his late father. Credit: Stephen Davidson/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST. Ian Paisley and Ian Junior in Studio. 16/8/94. 704/94/bwc
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 14/1/2011: Ian Paisley Junior pictured at the Adelaide Racer awards at the Ramada hotel PICTURE BY CHARLES MCQUILLAN
Paisley with Miss North West 200 Jillian Frew
3/5/2010. PACEMAKER BELFAST. IAN PAISLEY JR POSES FOR THE OFFICIAL ELECTION ARTIST, SIMON ROBERTS WHILST CANVESSING IN THE COUNTRYSIDE OUTSIDE BALLYMENA THIS AFTERNOON. PICTURE CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 22-03-2013: Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, Jr, MP is the Member of Parliament for North Antrim and member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for the Democratic Unionist Party and an author. He is the son of the DUP's founder and former leader, Ian Paisley. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Ian Paisley Jr met Amari Wijewardene, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner, in Parliament to discuss a post-Brexit trade deal
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 11/7/2018: North Antrim MP, Ian Paisley at motorcycle racer William Dunlop's funeral at Garryduff Presbyterian church outside Ballymoney. Dunlop was killed in a crash during practice for the Skerries 100. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER BELFAST 20/04/2017 Ian Paisley speaks to the Irish Times at Stormont Hotel in Belfast, about his father. Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
Ian discusses the legacy of his father Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
Ian Paisley
Pacemaker Belfast 18-06-2007: Junior Minister Ian Paisley Junior pictured at photocall at Stormont where ministers were encouraging people to cycle to work.
PACEMAKER BELFAST. Copy pics from the book about the early years of the life of Ian Paisley. 13/8/86. 1197/86/bw
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 8/5/2015:DUP's Ian Paisley celebrates his victory in the North Antrim constituency count in Ballymena . PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
A picture posted by Ian Paisley (right) of Arron Banks (second left), Sammy Wilson (second right) and Leave.EU campaigner Andy Wigmore
Pacemaker press 21/4/15 The Democratic Unionist Party MP Ian paisley Junior launches election manifesto at Wrightbus in Co Antrim. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker press
Paisley with Melania Trump
Ian Paisley Junior
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 8/5/2015:DUP's Ian Paisley celebrates his victory in the North Antrim constituency count in Ballymena . PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
DUP's Ian Paisley celebrates victory in the North Antrim constituency count in Ballymena in the May 2015 General Election. Picture Stephen Davison Pacemaker 8/5/2015.
PACEMAKER BELFAST. Ian Paisley and Ian Jnr.
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 8/5/2015: DUP's Ian Paisley celebrates his victory in the North Antrim constituency count in Ballymena by singing the National Anthem. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 8/5/2015: Ian Paisley arrives at the North Antrim constituency count in Ballymena with his wife, Fiona. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
9 / 6 / 17 PACEMAKER PRESS Ian Paisley Jr celebrates winning his seat for North Antrim in the UK Parlimentary Elections. PICTURE MATT BOHILL PACEMAKER PRESS
3/5/2010. PACEMAKER BELFAST. IAN PAISLEY JR AND IAN PAISLEY SR IN HARRYVILLE, BALLYMENA. PICTURE CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER.
Pacemaker Press 8/5/2017 DUP's Ian Paisley Jnr during the Launch of the DUP's General election campaign launch at the Castlereigh Hills Golf in East Belfast on Monday, ahead of the election on the 8th of June. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 8/5/2015:DUP's Ian Paisley celebrates his victory in the North Antrim constituency count in Ballymena . PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Pacemaker Press: 22th December 2017: Ian Paisley Jr pictured with his new and old Passport Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Ian Paisley
Pacemaker Press Belfast 31-03-2014: Launch of North-West 200 road races at Titanic Belfast . Pictured at the launch Ian Paisley, Jr. and Arlene Foster, MLA Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. PICTURE BY: STEPHEN DAVISON
Pacemaker Press Belfast 31-03-2014: Launch of North-West 200 road races at Titanic Belfast .Pictured at the launch Ian Paisley, Jr. and Arlene Foster, MLA Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. PICTURE BY: STEPHEN DAVISON
9 / 6 / 17 PACEMAKER PRESS Ian Paisley Jr celebrates winning his seat for North Antrim in the UK Parlimentary Elections. PICTURE MATT BOHILL PACEMAKER PRESS

He did not reveal the identity of this friend, but added that the friend was unconnected with his work and has received no benefit as a result of his work.

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BBC Spotlight reporter Lyndsey Telford (BBC Spotlight/PA)

On Tuesday night, a follow-up BBC Spotlight programme, Paisley In Paradise Revisited, reported that the friend was Dr Mohamed Shainee, who at the time of Mr Paisley’s trip to Coco Bodu Hithi was the Maldives Fisheries and Agriculture Minister.

Dr Shainee told the programme he did not pay for the trip.

However the programme reported that in a statement, Sunland Hotels which owns the resort, told them: “In 2016, Mohamed Shainee requested Sunland Hotels co-owner Hussain Hilmy for a rate at one of the company’s resorts … Shainee settled the payment for Ian Paisley’s stay at the head office”.

Barrister Gavin Millar QC told Spotlight: “If it’s correct, in light of everything we know about his dealings with the government, that a government minister negotiated a rate at this holiday resort for Mr Paisley and his family and then subsequently paid the bill for the accommodation, that is unquestionably an example of a gift which would generate the obligation to register it and tell the public about it.

“He has to produce some tangible evidence to show that what you’ve found is not correct and the government minister didn’t pay for it.”

BBC Spotlight also raised questions about other visits it reported that Mr Paisley made to the Maldives.

One of these trips, in February 2016 with the All-Party British-Maldives Parliamentary Group, was registered with the House of Commons Register of Interests.

But the other two trips – one to Kandolhu resort with his family in April 2014 and a two-night stay in January 2016 at Paradise Island resort – were not declared.

The trips would only require to be declared if they were gifted to the MP.

Spotlight reported that a source told them the trip to Kandolhu was complimentary.

Mr Paisley did not respond to BBC Spotlight's questions.

Spotlight also approached the DUP over whether an announced investigation into Mr Paisley’s visit to the Coco Bodu Hithi resort had reached a conclusion.

A DUP spokesman said: “Discipline is an internal party matter. We do not give a running commentary. All members are treated fairly and have a right to due process.”

Mr Paisley was suspended from the House of Commons in 2018 for 30 days for “serious misconduct” for failing to declare two family holidays to Sri Lanka in 2013.

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Last year DUP MP Ian Paisley apologised to the House of Commons for failing to register two family holidays funded by the Sri Lankan government, which he previously estimated was worth £50,000 (PA Archive)

He referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

The Commissioner, Kathryn Stone, found that Mr Paisley had failed to properly declare two holidays and engaged in paid advocacy for the Sri Lankan government.

Parliament suspended Mr Paisley from the House of Commons for 30 days over the matter.

However, a petition to trigger a by-election in his North Antrim constituency fell short by 444 votes.

On his return to the House of Commons following his suspension, he said: “A smaller man than me would have crumbled.”

Mr Paisley is the son of veteran politician Ian Paisley, who was one of the founders of the DUP, and held the North Antrim Westminster seat since 1970.

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