Northern Ireland news

Nigel Farage dismisses speculation he could join DUP

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage
Brendan Hughes

FORMER Ukip leader Nigel Farage has quashed speculation that he could join the DUP.

Mr Farage dismissed the idea which gathered pace ahead of him taking part in a DUP fundraiser in Ballymena tonight.

DUP MP Ian Paisley branded the speculation "media fever" and said he would be discussing Brexit and its aftermath with the MEP.

Responding to the claims today, Mr Farage said: "I will be remaining Ukip MEP.

"I have shared platforms with Labour MP Kate Hoey, Tory minister Liam Fox and other people like George Galloway.

"I am happy to support those who supported the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum.

"My visit is nothing more than that."

Speculation mounted after millionaire Brexiteer Arron Banks – who funded Ukip under Mr Farage's leadership and co-founded the Leave.EU campaign – had earlier refused to deny the pair planned to join the DUP.

"That's something you'll have to ask Nigel. We're attending a DUP fundraiser this evening and I'm not really able to comment on that," he told Sky News.

"But I'm sure Nigel will have comments at the dinner.

"But I think he's mainly focused on the Brexit border issues, and I'm sure he's going to make his feelings known."

Asked if it could be a back door into the Westminister parliament for Mr Farage, Mr Banks said: "All things are possible in politics. We've seen Trump, we've seen all manner of things.

"I would discount nothing, I would include nothing."

Mr Farage is the guest speaker at the DUP fundraiser at the Tullyglass House Hotel.

The event, entitled 'Brexit and Beyond', is being hosted by Mr Paisley and fellow DUP MPs Sammy Wilson and Paul Girvan, with ticket-only admission costing £15.

A party spokesman said Mr Farage "has already indicated this trip is not about joining the DUP", adding that under DUP rules you cannot be a party member unless you live in Northern Ireland.

The Tullyglass was also the venue used for another DUP dinner last September which has faced controversy.

The Electoral Commission is examining concerns over Mid and East Antrim council paying £1,500 for a table at the event, which had British government environment secretary Michael Gove as guest speaker.

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

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

The DUP has denied claims the event was a party fundraiser, and the council has insisted the money was paid to the hotel.

Meanwhile, a Ukip councillor in Portadown has resigned from the party over not being informed of Mr Farage's involvement in tonight's DUP event.

Prominent Orangeman David Jones also said he had been uncomfortable with issues within the party organisation over the past year-and-a-half.

Mr Farage visited Northern Ireland several times when he was Ukip leader.

He recently encouraged the Republic to "Irexit" from the EU during a speech in Dublin.

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