Belfast Telegraph

Under fire MPs Ian Paisley and David Simpson not speaking at DUP conference as Tories snubbed

Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

No Tory politician will address the DUP's conference for the first time since the party's confidence and supply agreement with the Conservatives.

There are also no slots for two of the party's MPs to speak at the event in Belfast this weekend, according to an agenda released yesterday.

Boris Johnson was the keynote speaker at last year's conference. The then de facto deputy Prime Minister Damian Green spoke at the conference's fundraising dinner in 2017.

Secretary of State Julian Smith also attended the conference that year in his former role as Government chief whip.

However, following the breakdown in relations between the Tories and the DUP over the Prime Minister's Brexit deal, which the DUP claims endangers the Union, no Tories are listed as speakers.

The conference is due to hear from eight of the DUP's 10 MPs.

Notably, neither North Antrim MP Ian Paisley nor Upper Bann MP David Simpson are listed as speakers.

The DUP has been asked for comment on why they appear to have been excluded.

Mr Paisley is facing questions over who paid for luxury trips he enjoyed in the Maldives.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said that "serious issues" had been raised about her MP after a BBC Spotlight programme about his holidays earlier this year. It has been alleged that one of the holidays was paid for by a former minister in the Maldives Government. The North Antrim MP has denied any wrongdoing.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne
Chief Constable Simon Byrne

Mr Paisley was suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days for "serious misconduct" for failing to declare two family holidays to Sri Lanka in 2013. He survived Parliament's first-ever recall petition last year.

Sunday Life revealed that Mr Simpson, a prominent Orangeman and Free Presbyterian, was having an affair with DUP councillor Louise Templeton.

He wants to stand in the forthcoming Westminster election, but many in the party are against him running.

Up to 400 delegates are expected to attend the party's two-day conference.

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne will today take part in a discussion with DUP members on policing. The session is closed to the media.

MLAs Mervyn Storey, Joanne Bunting and Keith Buchanan, who sit on the Policing Board, will also take part.

Tomorrow's proceedings will be opened by party chairman Lord Morrow.

MPs Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Sammy Wilson, Emma Little Pengelly, Gavin Robinson, Paul Girvan, Jim Shannon and Gregory Campbell will address delegates on the economy, healthcare and the media.

The keynote speeches will then be delivered by Mrs Foster and Nigel Dodds.

At last year's conference Boris Johnson backed the DUP in demanding that the backstop be scrapped.

"We need to junk the backstop," he told ecstatic delegates as he voiced his opposition to Theresa May's deal.

He said he hoped the DUP and Conservatives could continue working together in "backing our Union against all those who would seek to divide us".

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