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Jim Flanagan: Politically damaging, but Paisley dynasty will survive

The fall-out from the Sri Lankan holiday affair is self-evidently a major personal embarrassment for North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, but one he is likely to get over in due course.

Given his political standing in North Antrim - his General Election majority last year was actually bigger than anything his father ever achieved - there is absolutely no chance of him falling on his sword or of the DUP deserting him. As editor of the Ballymena Guardian until last Christmas, I had the opportunity to observe the 'Paisley X Factor' phenomenon in the area over many years. At grassroots constituency level, there are literally hundreds of volunteers willing to put their shoulder to the wheel, such is their devotion to the Paisley family name.

It is a dynasty that will not be easily dismantled, notwithstanding the immediate political damage caused by the serious errors of judgment Mr Paisley owned up to and the 'profound' apology issued to his constituents yesterday.

That damage is likely to include a by-election, as it seems the 7,500 or so signatures required to force one will be easily obtained.

And a subsequent election campaign would focus sharply on the Sri Lankan issues and Mr Paisley's personal credibility.

While the DUP may sanction Mr Paisley in the short term for his self-confessed' failings, I believe that would be as far as it goes.

The party would come out all guns blazing in an election campaign, mobilising the 'Paisleyite' army right across the constituency.

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His insatiable appetite for hard work on the ground will work in his favour - his Church Street constituency office handles around 1,000 queries a week. He was also instrumental in persuading JTI to set up a £5m legacy fund to stimulate economic activity in the Ballymena area. Mr Paisley will chair the Gallaher Trust, due to be officially launched in September, bringing real tangible benefits to the area and it's this type of affirmative action that will mitigate against his serious errors of judgment.

When the dust settles, I expect he will remain MP and the political capital amassed by the Paisley dynasty in North Antrim over almost 50 years will remain intact, if somewhat tarnished and severely embarrassed by these events.

Jim Flanagan is former editor of the Ballymena Guardian

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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 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 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 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

Ian Paisley at the Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena after retaining his seat in the 2015 general election

Kevin Scott / Presseye

Ian Paisley junior left pictured with his father during the Drumcree stand off in 1996. PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/04/98

Ian Paisley junior left pictured with his father during the Drumcree stand off in 1996. PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/04/98

Ian Paisley MP at a Remembrance Day commemoration in Kenya

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

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

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

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]

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]

Ian Paisley with his late father. Credit: Stephen Davidson/Pacemaker Press

Ian Paisley with his late father. Credit: Stephen Davidson/Pacemaker Press

PACEMAKER BELFAST. Ian Paisley and Ian Junior in Studio. 16/8/94.
704/94/bwc

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

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

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.

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.

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

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, 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

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 discusses the legacy of his father Photo Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press

Ian Paisley

Ian Paisley

Getty Images

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 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. 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

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

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

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

Paisley with Melania Trump

Ian Paisley Junior

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

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.

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. 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: 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

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

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.

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 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, 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.

Pacemaker Press: 22th December 2017: Ian Paisley Jr pictured with his new and old Passport Picture By: Arthur Allison.

Ian Paisley

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

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

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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The Paisley family at home in 1988. From left to right Ian Junior, Cherith, Rhonda, Kyle. Pic Pacemaker

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