Belfast Telegraph

Suzanne Breen: Ian Paisley an unconventional politician unlikely to be ousted from North Antrim

Ian Paisley with his wife Fiona
Ian Paisley with his wife Fiona
Paisley with Miss North West 200 Jillian Frew
Paisley with Melania Trump
With his late father Reverend Ian Paisley meeting Donald Trump
Ian with Arlene Foster after she was made DUP party leader
Ian Paisley meets Prince Charles on a visit to Northern Ireland
Ian Paisley at the Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena after retaining his seat in the 2015 general election
A family picture of the late Ian Paisley and wife Eileen with daughters Sharon, Cherith and Rhonda and twin sons Kyle (left) and Ian in 2012
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

As a child, Ian Paisley was always in trouble. His late father once recalled his son's "particularly mischievous" nature.

Putting mice in teachers' desks and waiting for the screams. Sticking his twin Kyle's head down the toilet. And even once daring to dangle a cigarette from his lips as his father preached fire and brimstone from the pulpit of his Martyrs' Memorial Free Presbyterian Church.

Ian jnr recalled getting "a kick in the backside" for that.

He is currently facing punishment of a much more serious nature from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

All eyes will be on the erring DUP MP when he addresses Parliament today. Suspensions of any length from the House of Commons are rare - often years pass without one.

If confirmed by the House, Mr Paisley's 30-day suspension for failing to register two family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government will become the longest suspension by far for any MP in almost 70 years. That's one record the DUP won't be proud to have broken.

The party's role in propping up Theresa May's minority Tory government means the suspension is major national news.

Its effect on parliamentary arithmetic, with knife-edge key Brexit votes, further raises the stakes and focuses even more attention on the North Antrim MP. The cards couldn't have fallen worse for the DUP on this one.

The party was yesterday adopting a business as usual approach, firing out Press releases on Brexit and folic acid.

On Mr Paisley, there was only a brief two-line statement, noting the commissioner's report and saying "the matter will now be considered by party officers".

But it is difficult to imagine the DUP giving its MP anything other than a slap on the wrists.

It really can't afford to do otherwise.

There was increasing speculation last night that a recall petition - which means an MP can lose their seat if 10% of the electorate in their constituency sign the petition - would be successful. That would lead to a by-election which Mr Paisley would surely contest as an independent if the DUP didn't select him.

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

"North Antrim is more Paisley country than DUP country," noted one unionist.

"It has had a Paisley as MP for almost half a century and it's not likely to change its mind because of a holiday in Sri Lanka.

"If Junior ran as an independent, he would beat any candidate the DUP put up. Loyalty to the Paisley family runs deep in this constituency. The party leadership knows that and no matter how much they may be tempted to cut Junior loose, they won't risk doing so."

Withdrawing the whip from Mr Paisley for a limited period may be the most likely punishment the party opts for.

The North Antrim MP has long enjoyed a freedom in the party due to his family connection that other DUP representatives can only dream of. This latest episode may change the balance of power at least slightly and allow the leadership to clip Mr Paisley's wings to some extent in future.

The 51-year-old has four children with wife Fiona, a paediatric nurse. He was himself the youngest of five children. His father wanted him to be a minister like Kyle but his heart was set on politics. He studied history and politics at Queens University where he made a very public protest at the banning of God Save The Queen at graduation ceremonies.

He entered politics, working for his father, and made a name for himself campaigning to free the UDR Four. He was elected to the Assembly in 1998 and won his father's Westminster seat in 2010. Throughout his career, he has never been far from the headlines and has raised the hackles of the DUP's upper echelons on numerous occasions.

From posing on a motorbike with Miss North West 200 Jillian Frew, to selfies with Melania Trump and belting out Sweet Caroline at the annual karaoke event at the Tory conference, he has never been afraid to let his hair down.

Mr Paisley is remarkably well-connected. His relationship with the Trump family is a prime example of the alliances he has built.

He emerged as the MP with the highest expenses in 2012-13. He resigned as a junior Stormont minister in 2008 following criticism of his links to property developer Seymour Sweeney and allegations he had lobbied on his behalf.

The controversy didn't curb Mr Paisley's popularity in North Antrim. While the DUP's political opponents call for him to resign, those who know him laugh at the very idea he would even consider doing so.

But this episode is another blow to the DUP's reputation in the wake of Nama, Red Sky, and cash-for-ash. With Arlene Foster back before the Renewable Heat Incentive Inquiry in the autumn, a by-election with Mr Paisley's luxury holiday being dissected is something the party could definitely do without.

When once asked if he resented walking in his father's shadow, he replied: "There will only ever be one Ian Paisley snr, but equally there will also only ever be one Ian Paisley jnr. He intends to make his own mark."

Nobody could dispute that he has certainly done that.

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