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Ian Paisley under the Spotlight again for undeclared trip to Maldives

Ian Paisley insists he has followed the correct procedures. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker.

DUP MP, Ian Paisley enjoyed a facilitated holiday at a luxury Maldives resort with his family, just months after advocating on behalf of its government

A BBC Spotlight investigation, aired last night, claimed the visit was organised by the resort owner, who is a former government minister.

The MP did not declare the holiday to the members register of financial interest, telling the BBC he paid for part of the holiday and the rest was paid for by a mystery friend who he has refused to identify.

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

Earlier this year the North Antrim MP was suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days for 'serious misconduct' after failing to declare two family holidays to Sri Lanka in 2013 with it being ruled the holidays breached Commons rules on paid advocacy.

A petition to trigger a by-election in his North Antrim constituency fell short by 444 votes, an outcome described by Mr Paisley as a 'miracle'.

On his return to the House of Commons following his suspension, he said "a smaller man than me would have crumbled".

In a statement to Spotlight, Mr Paisley has denied the government of the Maldives organised and paid for his October 2016 holiday.

"I'm satisfied the vacation did not have to be recorded on the register", he said.

Ian Paisley visited the Maldives in February 2016 with two other MPs from an All-Party Parliamentary Group, at a time when the Maldives government, headed by President Abdulla Yameen, was being criticised by organisations including Amnesty for jailing political opponents and journalists.

While there Mr Paisley, visited the prison where opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed had been jailed, and described the conditions as "quite luxurious".

Later that year, Mr Paisley returned to the Maldives again for a holiday with his wife and two children.

Hussain Hilmy, owner of the resort where the Paisley family stayed is a former Minister in the Maldives government and has held a number of other important public posts.

Last week, Mr Paisley told Spotlight that he had discussed the holiday in the Maldives with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone during her investigation into his Sri Lanka holidays.

Saying that as a consequence of that conversation, he had satisfied himself he did not need to register the trip.

After Spotlight contacted the commissioner's office, Mr Paisley got in touch with Spotlight again to clarify that he had not spoken to the commissioner as he had claimed but to a parliamentary registrar who administers the register of members' interests.

The Irish News tried to contact Mr Paisley last night but he did not respond.

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