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Editor's Viewpoint: Paisley's behaviour creates problem for DUP and Prime Minister May

Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley

People in public life, including politicians, often complain of trial by media. Ian Paisley MP cannot raise that argument as he was tried, in a manner of speaking, by his own peers over two visits to Sri Lanka, funded by that country's government, which he failed to declare.

True, the matter was first raised by The Daily Telegraph in September last year, but that has been shown to be in the public interest.

Mr Paisley faces a 30-day suspension from the House of Commons - and would be only the third MP to receive such a lengthy sanction since 1949 - and the matter could eventually result in him being forced to stand down in his North Antrim constituency.

His failure to declare the two visits by him and family members, which he estimates cost the Sri Lankan government more than £50,000 and which The Daily Telegraph claimed was worth £100,000, is an embarrassment to the DUP. Since agreeing its 'confidence and supply' deal with the Tory Government to keep Theresa May in power, it was inevitable that the DUP would come under increased scrutiny on the national stage.

But embarrassment is only part of the problem. Mr Paisley's absence from Parliament - if the recommendation from the House of Commons Standards Committee is accepted by MPs - reduces Mrs May's already tenuous majority, and she faces a number of important Brexit votes in the coming months. If approved, his suspension would begin on September 4.

Given the strength of the comments from other local parties, there may well be moves to create a by-election in North Antrim through a recall petition. Mr Paisley would lose his seat if 10% of the eligible electorate signs the petition, but he would be free to stand in any by-election. While the DUP says it will consider the report on Mr Paisley, it seems inconceivable that it would move to expel him or force him to give up his seat. The Paisley name has considerable cachet in North Antrim - it was his father who formed the DUP - and Mr Paisley undoubtedly has a considerable following in his constituency, aided by his affability and work ethic.

There is little history of politicians falling on their swords in Northern Ireland if found guilty of misconduct or offences such as those levelled at Mr Paisley. Indeed, he might have faced greater sanction from his party if he spoke out of turn to the media - the DUP imposes fines on those who do so - than for failing to declare the trips in the MPs' register of financial interests.

Cynics might argue that the public in Northern Ireland does not put integrity at the top of its tick list when deciding on who to vote for.

However, it should be remembered that Mr Paisley referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and apologised profusely for his failure to register the hospitality.

But it is also clear that he lobbied the then Prime Minister David Cameron to oppose a United Nations resolution setting up an international investigation into alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka and did not mention his paid-for family visits to that country in his letter.

The scale of the hospitality he received was regarded by the Commissioner as another aggravating factor.

Mr Paisley's behaviour left him with little or no defence when the matter became public and the investigation by the Commissioner began.

Given the charged atmosphere at Westminster over Brexit, he now finds himself in an unwelcome spotlight.

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
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/04/98 Ian paisley junior left pictured with his father during the Drumcree stand off in 1996
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]
PACEMAKER BELFAST 26/06/98 "Brothers in Arms" DUP leader Ian paisley and son Ian jnr pictured at the Ballymoney count after both were elected. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON/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

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