Belfast Telegraph

Still riding high and unruffled, Ian Paisley in jocular form at biking event

Ian Paisley speaking to Belfast Telegraph’s Lauren Harte
Ian Paisley speaking to Belfast Telegraph’s Lauren Harte
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

It wasn't quite the luxurious Maldivian Coco resort, but Ian Paisley was still able to soak up some rays much closer to home yesterday in sun-kissed Cultra.

The temperature may have been steadily rising but it seemed as though the under-fire DUP MP wasn't feeling the heat.

If anything he was as cool as a cucumber and in carefree mode during his first public event here since the latest claims surrounding luxury family holidays on the Indian Ocean island emerged. He brushed off a series of questions with "no comment" when approached by the Belfast Telegraph about the fresh allegations.

Instead, he opted to issue a direct challenge to the BBC to show their "evidence of wrongdoing" to the parliamentary standards watchdog.

Mr Paisley was in business mode as he launched a new study by the Northern Ireland Motorsport Taskforce on safety improvements, sponsorship and the contribution of road racing to tourism.

As chairman of the taskforce, Mr Paisley was certainly in his element among the vintage motorbikes and racing cars at the Ulster Transport Museum near Holywood.

The self-confessed "bike racing fan" appeared to be in high spirits, happily mingling with speed queen Maria Costello, former world number three Gordon Crockard and multiple race winner Phillip McCallen among others.

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He also eagerly clambered into racing cars and threw his leg over bikes, keen to embrace every photo opportunity, whether on two or four wheels.

Not once were the latest allegations over trips he reportedly took to the Maldives mentioned directly at the event.

But one off-the-cuff remark signalled that far-off climes weren't too far from his mind or the thoughts of some of those in attendance - and it wasn't just because of the soaring mercury.

When he asked one woman how she was, back came the reply: "I'm just back from holiday."

This prompted an animated outburst of laughter from Mr Paisley, who quipped: "Let's not go there!"

Inside the event launch and amid a backdrop of past and present racing champions, Mr Paisley took to the microphone to sing the praises of all those who had "punched above their weight" to contribute to the future of the local motorsport industry.

In return, road racing pundit Liam Beckett called for a round of applause for "the one and only Ian Paisley" as a thank you for "working religiously" on his report over the last two-and-a-half years.

If his popularity at yesterday's event is anything to go by, Mr Paisley is still riding high - for now at least.

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