Northern Ireland news

DUP still silent on latest Ian Paisley travel revelations

Ian Paisley pictured yesterday at an event at the Braid in Ballymena. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

THE DUP last night remained silent on revelations that its MP Ian Paisley claimed almost £6,000 from a peace charity to fly first-class to a conference in New York.

Mr Paisley has yet to respond to the allegations that he billed Co-operation Ireland for the costs of his flights - around 10 times more that than others paid to travel to the American city.

The north Antrim MP was yesterday among the guests at an event in Ballymena in honour of the founder of Wrightbus.

Mr Paisley spoke at a service at The Braid arts centre where Sir William Wright was awarded the Honorary Freedom of the Borough by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

But he has failed to publicly respond to the latest in a growing series of questions raised about his luxury travel abroad.

And despite several requests for comment, the DUP had last night also still not responded to the matter.

The Irish News yesterday revealed Mr Paisley flew first class to New York last year to be a guest speaker at the '20 Years of Peace' conference marking two decades since the Good Friday Agreement.

The event was organised by Co-operation Ireland, a registered charity aimed at encouraging north-south dialogue and peace-building.

Mr Paisley spoke on a panel alongside other high-profile figures including former US senator George Mitchell, former SDLP MP Mark Durkan and ex-Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney gave a speech at the event. He flew economy on budget airline Norwegian Air and his government department covered the cost, a spokesman said.

Other attendees were asked to pay their costs up-front and submit these later as expenses claims to Cooperation Ireland to recoup their money.

Mr Paisley's flights cost £5,925.11 and his accommodation was £402.23 - a total of £6,327.34. The cost was covered by Cooperation Ireland, according to his register of interests.

It is understood all other high-profile invited speakers from Ireland and Britain travelled in economy-class seats.

Sinn Féin described the price of Mr Paisley's journey as "astonishing", while the SDLP said it was "truly shameless" that he had recouped the costs from a charity.

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