Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin says DUP 'cannot ignore' Ian Paisley's lobbying for highly-criticised Sri Lankan government

 Ian Paisley apologising to the House of Commons last week

SINN Féin has hit out at DUP MP Sammy Wilson's claim that Ian Paisley should not face any "additional sanctions" from the party amid a possible 30-day suspension from Westminster over a luxury holidays scandal.

The North Antrim MP will learn tomorrow whether he will be suspended after he broke parliamentary rules by failing to declare two family holidays to Sri Lanka in 2013, paid for by the country's government.

Mr Paisley later lobbied the prime minister in support of the Sri Lankan regime.

The House of Commons' Committee on Standards found Mr Paisley kept two of his three visits to the country in 2013 secret due to embarrassment about its "serious human rights violations".

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Enforced disappearances, executions, torture and other serious human rights abuses were "committed with impunity before, during and in the aftermath of the armed conflict between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam" that ended in 2009, according to Amnesty International.

Amnesty found that commitments made by Sri Lanka in 2015 to establish truth, justice and reparation schemes and other key reforms had not been implemented.

Mr Wilson said at the weekend that Mr Paisley had already apologised and should not face any sanctions from his party.

"He has apologised to his constituents, to the party and to parliament. I don't think there should be any additional sanctions imposed on him. That should be the end of the matter," he told the BBC.

"The reason why he has got a massive majority is because people know he works hard for them."

Sinn Féin and the SDLP have already called on Mr Paisley to resign.

North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan

North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan said today if Mr Paisley does not do so, he should be forced to by his party.

"Amnesty International has said that serious human rights abuses were committed with impunity by the Sri Lankan regime during the conflict there," he said.

"Yet, after receiving his gifts from the Sri Lankan government, Ian Paisley actively lobbied the British prime minister to oppose a United Nations resolution to establish an international investigation into the human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

"Does the DUP leadership really believe that it is acceptable to dismiss the fact that one of its MPs lobbied in defence of a regime that carried out mass murder, war crimes and gross human rights abuses?

"This is a litmus test for the DUP leadership and If Ian Paisley does not do the right thing and voluntarily resign, his party should compel him to do so."

Ian Knox cartoon on July 20 2018

On Thursday, in a speech to fellow MPs, Mr Paisley apologised "with profound regret and deep personal embarrassment".

If he is suspended, his enforced absence will begin on September 4 and is likely to impact on key Brexit votes.

A by-election could also be triggered if 10% of the eligible electorate in North Antrim sign a petition within six weeks.

Mr Paisley won the seat in last year's general election with a majority of more than 20,000.

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