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Parties ask MP standards watchdog to investigate fresh Ian Paisley holiday claims

Last year DUP MP Ian Paisley apologised to the House of Commons for failing to register two family holidays funded by the Sri Lankan government, which he previously estimated was worth £50,000 (PA Archive)
Last year DUP MP Ian Paisley apologised to the House of Commons for failing to register two family holidays funded by the Sri Lankan government, which he previously estimated was worth £50,000 (PA Archive)
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

Parties have confirmed they have asked the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate fresh allegations levelled at DUP MP Ian Paisley.

The North Antrim MP is facing fresh questions over a number of trips he reportedly took to the Maldives, one of which its claimed was paid for by a former minister in Indian Ocean nation's government. Mr Paisley has not responded to the latest claims.

Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan confirmed on Wednesday morning that he has asked the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate the latest allegations.

He said: “I have called on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate the claims but Ian Paisley’s own party leadership should also end its silence and confirm what action it intends to take in light of this latest scandal.

“The DUP announced in December that it was investigating the first wave of Maldives allegations but we have heard nothing since then about what actions have been taken to discipline their MP.

“Another tearful ‘mea culpa’ apology from Ian Paisley just isn’t going to be enough. These allegations are gravely serious and they need to be treated as such by the authorities and Ian Paisley’s own party.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, Alliance Chief Whip Kellie Armstrong MLA and Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann also confirmed they had written to the commissioner urging an investigation.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone MBE, is in charge of regulating MPs' conduct and propriety.

A spokeswoman for her office told the Belfast Telegraph it is unable to confirm or deny whether the commissioner is investigating the fresh allegation relating to Mr Paisley due to a decision parliament took last year that the commissioner should not disclose such details.

If the commissioner does receive an allegation, she will first look at whether the matter is within her remit and whether there is sufficient evidence to justify an inquiry. If she thinks there is grounds for an investigation, she will launch an investigation unless it is more appropriate for a different authority to investigate.

If the commissioner does investigate, details of the investigation would only become public at the end of her work.

Last December BBC Spotlight raised queries over who paid for a luxury holiday the DUP MP and his family took to the Coco Bodu Hithi resort in the nation in 2016.

Mr Paisley said then that he paid for part of the holiday and the rest was paid for by a friend.

He did not reveal the identity of this friend, but added that the friend was unconnected with his work and has received no benefit as a result of his work.

On Tuesday night, a follow-up BBC Spotlight programme, Paisley In Paradise Revisited, reported that the friend was Dr Mohamed Shainee, who at the time of Mr Paisley’s trip to Coco Bodu Hithi was the Maldives Fisheries and Agriculture Minister.

Dr Shainee told the programme he did not pay for the trip.

However the programme reported that in a statement, Sunland Hotels which owns the resort, told them: “In 2016, Mohamed Shainee requested Sunland Hotels co-owner Hussain Hilmy for a rate at one of the company’s resorts … Shainee settled the payment for Ian Paisley’s stay at the head office”.

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