Northern Ireland news

Ian Paisley is suspended from Parliament for 30 days over free Sri Lanka trips

 Ian Paisley failed to declare two luxury holidays to Sri Lanka in 2013
Digital Staff

IAN Paisley has been suspended from the House of Commons for 30 sitting days after he failed to declare two free luxury family holidays to Sri Lanka.

MPs supported the punishment recommended by the Committee on Standards during a Commons debate this afternoon. Mr Paisley was not present in the chamber for the debate.

Jim Shannon from the DUP was the only party member present. 

After MPs voted to ratify a recommendation from the House of Commons' standards watchdog the DUP also announced that the North Antrim MP would be suspended pending the outcome of a further investigation.

The North Antrim MP could now face a by-election. His suspension will begin on September 4 and will run until November.

Today's vote automatically triggers a 'recall petition' process that could cost the DUP politician his seat.

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Voters in North Antrim can soon sign a petition at up to 10 centres around the constituency. The petition centres are expected to be set up within a few weeks.

The centres will stay open for six weeks.

If 7,500 signatures are gathered, a by-election will be called.

 Ian Paisley apologising in the House of Commons last week

Mr Paisley has already said he will contest any election.

He told his local paper, the Ballymena Guardian: "If a petition leads to a by-election make no mistake about it, I will seek re-election as I have never run away from an election in my life and don't intend to do so now."

The MP has been censured over his failure to declare two luxury family holidays in 2013 paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

In March 2014, the senior DUP politician lobbied against a proposed United Nations resolution to investigate alleged human rights abuses during a civil war in Sri Lanka.

Patrick Corrigan, head of Amnesty International in Northern Ireland, said the victims were those killed in Sri Lanka.

"Mr Paisley saw fit to lobby the Prime Minister against a UN investigation into gross human rights violations, including the mass killing of civilians at the end of the Sri Lankan war, for which no adequate investigation has ever been carried out."

Last week, Mr Paisley apologised to the House of Commons over his "total failure".

He said it was with "profound personal regret and deep personal embarrassment" that he had to make a statement as he acknowledged he failed to declare and register the two trips.

But he denied he had any "ulterior motive for that genuine mistake" in 2013, adding that he accepted his "total failure" and offered another unreserved apology "without qualification".

His voice cracked with emotion as he told the Commons: "I say sorry and apologise for the failings that were identified in the Standards Committee report."

The Commons Standards Committee said Mr Paisley had committed "serious misconduct" and his actions "were of a nature to bring the House of Commons into disrepute".

The report said the cost of the hospitality may have been "significantly more" than Mr Paisley's £50,000 estimate, with the holidays including business-class air travel, accommodation at first-class hotels and more for him and his wider family.

The trips also included meeting with Sri Lankan governmental figures. The threshold for registering such hospitality in 2013 was around £660.

Read more:

WATCH BACK AS PARLIAMENT SUSPENDS IAN PAISLEY EARLIER TODAY

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