Leading article

Damaging report into Ian Paisley a resignation matter

While there is considerable cynicism about politicians generally, the fact is that we are entitled to expect those elected to public office to observe high standards, to conduct themselves in a way that does not undermine the integrity of our democratic institutions.

We must also recognise that political representatives are capable of making serious mistakes that can cost them dear, such as in the case of Barry McElduff, whose unfortunate tweet over a Kingsmill loaf resulted in his resignation as West Tyrone MP.

That was an error of judgment, it was recognised as such and Mr McElduff paid the price.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley junior is now in a situation of his own making that in any normal circumstances would lead to immediate suspension by his party and would undoubtedly be a resigning matter.

Mr Paisley is no stranger to controversy but the findings of a parliamentary watchdog now casts a shadow over his political career.

The DUP MP is facing suspension from the House of Commons for 30 sitting days - which is a significant sanction - for failing to register two family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government in 2013.

These were not family holidays as would be understood by the vast majority of people who save all year for a low cost fortnight in the sun.

The holidays enjoyed by Mr Paisley, his wife and children involved business-class air travel, top class hotels, helicopter trips and visits to tourist attractions and are estimated to be valued at well over £50,000.

Not only did he fail to register luxury trips paid for by a foreign government but he was also found to be in breach of Westminster's paid advocacy rules after he subsequently wrote to then prime minister David Cameron to lobby against a proposed UN resolution setting up an international investigation into alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

Yet when the Daily Telegraph published the original allegations, which were clearly in the public interest, Mr Paisley issued an immediate denial and even now says he is considering legal action against the newspaper.

Mr Paisley is due to make a statement to the House of Commons today about these extremely serious findings.

He should, of course, be considering his position but experience tells us he is likely to brazen this matter out.

His party should demonstrate that it believes in upholding standards in public office by sending out a firm message to the electorate.

The DUP likes to handle party issues in its own way but senior figures will also know that there is wider scrutiny as a result of the confidence and supply arrangement.

This report is enormously damaging to Ian Paisley and to the DUP. Doing nothing will only fuel further cynicism in our political process.

 

 

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