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Ian Paisley 'put himself out' to fly first-class to New York peace conference 'at the last minute'

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

DUP MP Ian Paisley says he 'put himself out' to travel first-class to a New York peace conference at a charity's expense.

The North Antrim MP has told the Ballymena Guardian that he was "asked at the last minute" by Cooperation Ireland to speak at the event last year and "initially I refused".

Ian Paisley said he had been asked to fill in for a speaker who had "unexpectedly become unavailable" and was in New York for 24 hours to take part in a conference marking the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

The Irish News last week revealed that Ian Paisley had billed the charity almost £6,000 for a first-class return flight to New York.

Mr Paisley's first-class 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.

Others travelling to the event from Ireland and Britain, including Tánaiste Simon Coveney, flew in economy – more than 10 times cheaper in price.

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

Mr Paisley told the Ballymena Guardian he had initially refused the invitation due to commitments in Westminster and his North Antrim constituency.

"The organisers said they would fly me in for my speech and fly me back immediately. I was there for 24 hours," he said.

"I understand that all the costs were met by the charity sponsor of the event and not from charity funds. I certainly did not bill for my services.

"The organisation paid for the travel directly and agreed everything in advance. I put myself out to be there for less than a day to help complete their conference panel." 

It is Mr Paisley's latest lavish trip controversy after months of criticism and parliamentary probes over holidays in the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

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