Electoral Commission examines DUP dinner hosted by Ian Paisley

DUP North Antrim MP Ian Paisley

THE Electoral Commission is examining concerns over a council paying for a table at a DUP dinner hosted by Ian Paisley.

Mid and East Antrim council paid £1,500 for a table at the North Antrim MP's annual constituency dinner last September at Tullyglass House Hotel.

The DUP has denied claims the event, attended by British government environment secretary Michael Gove, was a fundraiser for the party.

A letter emerged last month in which Mr Paisley had asked the council to make a cheque payable to Tullyglass, but send it to his Ballymena constituency office.

The council has insisted the money was paid to the hotel, and was sent via electronic payment.

Under Electoral Commission rules, councils are not considered "permissible donors" and donations from such public bodies must be returned within 30 days.

The commission is thought to be assessing the information that has recently come to light before deciding whether to launch a full investigation, the BBC reported yesterday.

In a statement the commission said: "We are aware of this matter and are considering it in line with our enforcement policy."

At the time it was presented to councillors last year, the dinner was described as a "major business in the community event" and a "chance to shape forthcoming agriculture policies".

But questions mounted after a DUP councillor later said it was a "DUP business dinner".

Mr Paisley's letter to the local authority was obtained by Sinn Féin councillor Patrice Hardy.

Ms Hardy said: "I welcome the fact the Electoral Commission has confirmed it is looking into whether or not the DUP benefited financially from the council's money as local authorities are not permissible donors to political parties."

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