North Antrim MP Ian Paisley ‘broke rules’ over Maldives family holiday

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley pictured at an election count in Ballymena

NORTH Antrim MP Ian Paisley failed to register a luxury family holiday to the Maldives but he will not face sanctions, a parliamentary inquiry has found.

The 2016 trip was investigated by the parliamentary standards commissioner.

She found on “balance of probabilities that a corporate body rather than a personal friend of Mr Paisley’s had absorbed the cost of the hospitality”.

Kathryn Stone said the MP had apologised for not declaring the trip and for delaying her investigations.

Ian Paisley, his wife and his two sons received a full-board five-night stay at a resort in 2016, eight months after he was part of a controversial parliamentary visit to the islands.

Mrs Stone concluded Mr Paisley and his family received a benefit which should have been registered in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

However, the commissioner also concluded the trip was not funded by a foreign government and the DUP MP did not break any rules on “paid advocacy”.

Mr Paisley’s trip to the Maldives was investigated by the BBC NI Spotlight programme in December 2018.

The programme alleged the North Antrim MP was given a complimentary holiday at a luxury Maldives resort months after advocating on behalf of its government and examined whether he should have declared the trip in 2016.

Mr Paisley claimed he paid for part of the holiday and the rest was paid for by a friend, the BBC reports.

Ms Stone’s report states that “on the basis of all the evidence available to me, bearing in mind that I had concluded that the true donor had been a corporate body and not a foreign government, I did not find that Mr Paisley had acted in breach of the rules on the declaration of interest nor the rules on paid advocacy”.

Her report also states this is not the first time Mr Paisley has broken the rules.

Mr Paisley was suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days for “serious misconduct” for failing to declare two family holidays to Sri Lanka in 2013.

Ms Stone’s report said that in relation to the Maldives trip, Mr Paisley had “acknowledged this new breach of rules”.

She said he had also “apologised unreservedly for it and has agreed to rectify his omission”.

The report states “he has described to me the steps he has taken to avoid any further recurrence”.

“He has also apologised for unnecessarily delaying my inquiry,” Ms Stone said.

The commissioner also notes that during her inquiry Mr Paisley’s “responses have not always been helpful”.

She has concluded her investigation into the MP and does not intend to take any further action.

Mr Paisley has added the Maldives trip to the register, the BBC report said.

Reacting to the developments, North Antrim Traditional Unionist Voice MLA Jim Allister said in a statement: “Today’s report by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner would lead one to conclude that Mr Paisley is very lucky in his friends.

“He has told the Commissioner that the holiday in the Maldives was paid for by a friend, a friend he hadn’t met for 7 or 8 years, who he first met 10 years before and only met a couple of times since and yet he paid for this holiday. I do think that many people in North Antrim are growing weary of Mr Paisley’s excuses.

“How many of us have found ourselves discovering only when checking out that our hotel stay was complimentary? That, according to Mr Paisley, is what happened during his visit to the Maldives! Yet, he says he didn’t even contact the benefactor to say “thanks”.

“The report finds that the MP for North Antrim has, again, broken the rules on the registration of overseas visits and describes her decision not to take more robust action as “finely balanced”. So, Mr Paisley’s reaction to these findings should be humility.

“Once again he has damaged the good name of his constituency and damaged Unionism as a brand.”

In a statement, North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Phillip McGuigan has called on the DUP to take action against North Antrim MP Ian Paisley following the Commissioner for Standards finding the MP had failed to register a luxury holiday to the Maldives.

Mr McGuigan said: “Today the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in the House of Commons has ruled that Ian Paisley MP failed to register a luxury holiday to the Maldives.

“Ian Paisley had said the holiday was ‘partially funded by a long-standing personal friend’.

“The Commissioner for Standards has ruled this not to be the case, but ‘that a corporate body, rather than a personal friend of Mr Paisley’s, had absorbed the cost of the hospitality.’

“How many times will Ian Paisley have to display outright contempt for the public and transparency before the DUP take action against his rogue activities?

“This is the latest in a series of scandals involving Ian Paisley and is another two fingers up to the people of North Antrim by the MP.

“The DUP leadership need to take action against this MP.”

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