Belfast Telegraph

Tell Parliament if you have proof I did wrong over holidays, Paisley challenges BBC

Ian Paisley at the Motorsport Taskforce Report launch at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum yesterday
Ian Paisley at the Motorsport Taskforce Report launch at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum yesterday
Ian Paisley at the Motorsport Taskforce Report launch at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum yesterday
Ian Paisley speaking to Belfast Telegraph’s Lauren Harte
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Ian Paisley has urged the BBC to submit any evidence of wrongdoing it has to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards amid claims he accepted a luxury family holiday from a former Maldives government minister.

The North Antrim DUP MP is facing fresh questions over a number of trips he reportedly took to the Maldives - one of which, it is claimed, was paid for by a former member of the Indian Ocean nation's cabinet.

Asked for his reaction to the allegations made in Tuesday night's BBC NI Spotlight programme, Mr Paisley told the Belfast Telegraph: "If the BBC believe they have got evidence about any wrongdoing that I have done then they have a responsibility to report that to the Parliamentary authorities and to the Commissioner.

"I would encourage them to report that evidence if they claim that they have it."

Pressed further on whether he believed the BBC has sufficient evidence following this week's revelations, Mr Paisley declined to comment.

He added: "I am not commenting on what they have - I'm just saying that if they believe they have got evidence of wrongdoing then they have a duty to submit it to the independent parliamentary authorities and it's up to them to consider if I breached the rules.

"That's my only comment on the matter."

The UUP, Alliance, Sinn Fein and SDLP all say they have submitted a complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone.

Parliamentary rules prevent Mrs Stone from confirming or denying whether she has launched an investigation.

Earlier this week, when this newspaper visited Ballymena in the wake of the latest claims, some of Mr Paisley's constituents hit out at his lack of transparency, urging him to step forward and tell the whole story.

But Mr Paisley yesterday dismissed suggestions that his constituents deserved an explanation. He said he enjoyed a "very good and sound" relationship with them.

The DUP has said it will consider the "serious issues" raised.

The new evidence obtained by Spotlight comes six months after the programme first exposed Mr Paisley's failure to declare a luxury family holiday to the Maldives.

Last December it emerged that Mr Paisley, his wife and their two sons had received a full-board five-day trip in October and November 2016.

Mr Paisley previously denied that the holiday was paid for by authorities in the Maldives and that he was satisfied he did not need to declare the trip on the register of interests at Westminster.

The MP said he paid for part of the holiday himself, while the rest was covered by a long-term friend who was unconnected to his work.

He declined to reveal the identity of the friend, who has now been named by the BBC as the Maldives' former fisheries minister Dr Mohamed Shainee.

Dr Shainee has denied the claims against him.

The programme also claimed that Mr Paisley enjoyed two other visits to the islands which were not registered with the authorities at Westminster.

These included a two-night trip to Paradise Island resort in January 2016, just three weeks before an official trip he made on behalf of the government.

According to Spotlight, the family stayed free of charge at the Kandolhu Island Resort in April 2014, which had recently opened following a multi-million pound refurbishment.

On Thursday the BBC defended its investigation into the MP after John Finlay, the chair of the DUP North Antrim association, told his accusers to "put up or shut up" and present any "hard evidence" they have.

Mr Paisley was previously suspended from the House of Commons for 30 sitting days for serious misconduct after failing to declare two family holidays to Sri Lanka in 2013 which he estimated to be worth £50,000.

He also narrowly avoided facing a by-election after Parliament's first ever recall petition fell short of the number of constituent signatures required to oust him by around 450.

Belfast Telegraph


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