Jake O'Kane: Ian Paisley jnr will be embarrassing the DUP for some time to come

Ian Paisley jnr stood at the end of the Queen's graduation ceremony and played God Save The Queen on a small cassette recorder he'd sneaked in. Unfortunately, his principled stance was met with laughter and ridicule... the template had been set

Ian Paisley jnr – last week his Twitter account was again deactivated. Picture Mal McCann
Jake O'Kane

THE outrageous antics of Ian Paisley jnr over the past few years could only happen in the dysfunctional little dystopia that is Northern Ireland. However, none of his antics have come out of the blue – the man has form.

Troubling signs were apparent as far back as his university days, when he studied for a masters in Modern History and Irish Politics at Queen’s. The playing of God Save The Queen had been discontinued at graduations but young Paisley decided to make a stand – literally. Joined by a couple of idiots, he stood at the end of the graduation ceremony and played the national anthem on a small cassette recorder he’d sneaked in. Unfortunately, his principled stance was met with laughter and ridicule... the template had been set.

Never having had a real job, Paisley jnr went straight from university into the family business – politics – acting as his dad’s parliamentary aide and researcher. In 2008 he was caught up in the scandal around politicians employing family members when it was discovered he was on his father’s payroll as a researcher – this was in addition to his other roles at the time as an MLA and junior minister.

Ian also had a keen interest in property development on the north coast, canvassing in 2007 for Seaport Investments Ltd, a private company led by developer Seymour Sweeney, to be allowed to build a private visitor centre at the Giant's Causeway.

As the only Unesco World Heritage site in Northern Ireland, many thought it strange he was lobbying for the private development of such a unique site. Paisley initially denied any financial relationship with Sweeney but it was later revealed that not only had he bought a holiday home from him, but the house remained in Mr Sweeney’s wife’s name after the purchase. Paisley explained this as an ‘administrative hiccup’.

Paisley’s ministerial position became untenable when it was reported that he’d handed the then prime minister, Tony Blair, a ‘shopping list’ of demands at the St Andrews talks, one item being the Sweeney Causeway project.

Worse was to come when it was discovered that Sweeney was a director of ‘Sarcon no 250’, the company which owned the constituency office shared by Ian and his father. Paisley jnr resigned as a junior minister in 2008, adamant he’d done nothing wrong, and put his demise down to innuendo and unfounded allegations.

When he won his father’s parliamentary seat in 2010, concerns were raised about his expenses. For the financial year 2012-13, his expenses were £232,000, the highest of any MP that year; during the parliamentary session of 2010-2015 he claimed a total of £1,112,667.

Amazingly, until this year, Paisley did nothing to break parliamentary rules – that all changed with his relationship with the Sri Lankan regime. The House of Commons Standards Committee banned him for 30 days after finding he’d broken rules around paid advocacy and not declaring holidays to Sri Lanka paid for by that government.

That a sitting MP could see nothing wrong in accepting luxury holidays from a repressive regime such as Sri Lanka, and then lobby on their behalf, demonstrates either crass arrogance or utter stupidity.

That the Petition of Recall failed after the Sri Lankan scandal should surprise nobody. Paisley had a majority of around 20,000 at the last election and possesses the most important prerequisite for remaining the MP for North Antrim, specifically the name ‘Paisley’.

This is despite, during his tenure in office, two of the biggest employers in his constituency, Michelin and Gallaher’s, closing down, and Wrightbus reducing their workforce, or his views on homosexuality which can only be described as biblical.

Commenting in 2007 on news that David Trimble’s aide, Steven King, had married his partner in Canada, Paisley said: “I find these sorts of relationships are immoral, offensive and obnoxious.”

Two years later, in an interview in Hot Press, he added: “I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong. I think that those people harm themselves and – without caring about it – harm society.”

It was no surprise then that he immediately reactivated his dormant Twitter account last week to applaud the win by Ashers bakery in the Supreme Court. Ian, being Ian, had to deactivate the account again after reposting a vile tweet linking the BBC, Euro-sceptics and Jimmy Saville.

One thing is certain, the train wreck which is Ian Paisley jnr's political career will be entertaining us and embarrassing the DUP for some time to come.

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