Ian Paisley faces calls to quit after claims he failed to declare another holiday
IAN Paisley is facing fresh calls to quit amid claims the DUP MP failed to declare another luxury holiday to parliamentary authorities.
Political rivals have urged the North Antrim representative to resign after allegations he holidayed in the Maldives courtesy of the Indian Ocean nation's government.
The DUP has pledged to examine the "very serious" claims levelled in a BBC Spotlight NI investigation.
Mr Paisley has denied the holiday was paid for by the Maldives government, instead insisting an unnamed friend part-funded the 2016 vacation.
Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Ulster Unionists have written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone urging her to investigate the case.
Sinn Féin and the SDLP said Mr Paisley should resign and, if he did not, DUP leader Arlene Foster was obliged to take action against him.
Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister urged Mr Paisley to self-refer himself to the standards commissioner.
The claims aired by Spotlight came days after Mr Paisley returned to Parliament having served a 30-day suspension for failing to declare two holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government and lobbying on its behalf.
He narrowly avoided facing a by-election after Parliament's first ever recall petition fell short of the number of constituent signatures required to oust him by around 450.
- Ian Paisley under the Spotlight again for undeclared trip to Maldives
- DUP to examine claims over Ian Paisley's luxury family holiday to the Maldives
Commenting on the latest claims, Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill said the MP should have resigned "months ago".
"It's the latest in a long line of scandals associated with the DUP and Ian Paisley in particular," she said.
"I think Ian Paisley should have resigned many months ago and I think where he finds himself again today at the centre of another scandal is not anything befitting of someone who holds public office."
At last month's party conference in Belfast, DUP leader Mrs Foster apologised after acknowledging that standards of conduct within the party had fallen short in a number of areas.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Mrs O'Neill said: "I think that what we need to see now is more than fine words at a party conference, I think those fine words need to be acted upon and I think this will be the first test of Arlene Foster's comments at her party conference."
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has called for Mr Paisley to quit.
"It really is time for Ian Paisley to resign," he said.
"If he doesn't, then the onus is on Arlene Foster to remove him from the DUP."
UUP leader and fellow North Antrim representative Robin Swann said: "There is an onus on Mr Paisley to cut the bluster and offer openness and transparency to the people of North Antrim. The allegations raised by Spotlight are extremely serious and deserve a credible response from Ian Paisley and the DUP.
"The DUP also need to be open about when they learned of these allegations and what they know. They cannot simply hide behind a statement saying they will investigate. This is yet another stain on North Antrim and the reputation of politics in Northern Ireland."
Mr Allister, a North Antrim Assembly member, said: "The circumstantial case raised by Spotlight is very persuasive and whereas he is entitled to more than 'trial by media', Mr Paisley now should refer himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner so that a considered verdict can be delivered."
The trip under scrutiny came months after Mr Paisley travelled to the country on parliamentary business.
The North Antrim representative had argued against sanctions being taken against the Maldives over alleged human rights abuses.
Mr Paisley denied the holiday was paid for by the authorities in the Maldives and said he is satisfied he did not need to declare the trip on the register of interests at Westminster.
Declined to reveal identity of friend
The MP said he paid for part of the holiday himself, while the rest was paid for by a long-term friend who was unconnected to his work.
He declined to reveal the identity of the friend.
Mr Paisley had been suspended from the DUP pending a party investigation into the Sri Lankan controversy, but the censure was subsequently lifted.
On Wednesday morning, a DUP spokesman said: "The party officers will want to consider these very serious matters being mindful of the high standards we require of elected representatives."
In a statement in response to the programme, Mr Paisley said: "The government of the Maldives did not organise or pay for my family vacation in 2016, which I do not intend to go into with you.
"I'm satisfied the vacation did not have to be recorded on the register."
Mr Paisley's record suspension from Parliament was imposed following the findings of an investigation by the standards commissioner Ms Stone.
It is unknown whether she is investigating the latest claims, as she is prevented from publicly confirming details of any probe until it concludes.
A spokeswoman for the commissioner said: "The House of Commons took a decision on July 19 2018 that the Commissioner should not publish information, other than statistics, about complaints received and about inquiries started, unless and until she had concluded an inquiry and her decision had been published.
"I can therefore neither confirm nor deny whether the Commissioner has received a complaint, nor whether she has begun or might begin an inquiry."
Mr Paisley has been MP for North Antrim since 2010.
His father Ian Paisley, a former first minister of Northern Ireland and Democratic Unionist leader, had previously held the seat since 1970.