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Suzanne Breen: DUP unlikely to risk ousting Paisley given heavy backing in constituency

Nigel Dodds
Nigel Dodds

By Suzanne Breen

The fate of Ian Paisley now lies in the hands of the seven men and women who make up the DUP officer board.

Arlene Foster yesterday dodged a question on whether the North Antrim MP had her full support and stressed that it was now a matter for party officers.

But Mrs Foster, along with DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, sits on the officer board, which meets every week and effectively runs the DUP.

The pair will play a powerful role in deciding Mr Paisley's future.

The other party officers include Michelle McIlveen, party secretary; treasurer Gregory Campbell; and Simon Hamilton, director of elections.

DUP chairman Maurice Morrow and assistant secretary Diane Dodds also serve on the board.

They are expected to meet next week, and will discuss the House of Commons Standards Committee's report on Mr Paisley. It is expected that a disciplinary panel will then be established.

This will be made up of party members and is likely to include some who have a legal background.

The panel will examine the MP's behaviour in light of party rules. He will be invited to give evidence on his own behalf.

Panel members will listen to his arguments and then make their decision on what, if any, penalty he will face.

The disciplinary action that they will consider will include suspending Mr Paisley from the DUP, removing the party whip from him, imposing a financial penalty, or even expulsion.

Another possible sanction would be barring him from standing as a DUP candidate for a certain period of time. If they opted for that course of action it could have ramifications in the event of a by-election.

It is highly unlikely that the party would expel Mr Paisley given his family pedigree.

Suspending him from the party for a time-limited period would seem to be the most likely outcome in the current circumstances.

The panel is likely to move very cautiously and to take several weeks to reach a conclusion.

The DUP will tread carefully and will follow disciplinary procedures robustly because any decision could potentially be subject to a future legal challenge by Mr Paisley.

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

At every step of the way, the party will be mindful that the whole affair could end up in court.

The disciplinary panel's recommendation will be made to party officers who will then decide to accept or reject it.

Political considerations will clearly play a major part in what action the DUP chooses to take against its North Antrim representative. If Mr Paisley didn't have such strong personal support in the constituency, the party's top brass would surely want to cut him adrift.

However, the fact that he would be likely run as an independent and retain the seat means the DUP can't afford to go down that route even if some in the party may instinctively want to.

Patience with the North Antrim MP appears to be wearing very thin with some party figures.

His popularity in the constituency is what will likely save him, and guarantee that there will still be a Paisley in the DUP for the foreseeable future.

Belfast Telegraph

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