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Growing dilemmas surround Ian Paisley

WHEN Theresa May and Arlene Foster met in Co Fermanagh yesterday to consider the Brexit crisis, it would be intriguing to know how much time they also spent privately discussing the difficulties facing Ian Paisley.

Mrs Foster, in her only public comment on the matter to date, declined to offer any endorsement of her colleague and said his case would have to be considered by her party officers.

She will be well aware of the damage to her credibility which will follow if Mr Paisley does not face appropriate disciplinary action within the DUP to coincide with his proposed 30-day parliamentary suspension.

At the same time, she will be anxious to avoid any possibility that the maverick MP would run as an independent in the by-election which would take place if he is forced to resign his North Antrim seat.

The main issue for Mrs May is much simpler, as she needs every vote she can get at Westminster while she clings to power and watches one Brexit calamity unfolding after another.

Having survived a parliamentary challenge on a related motion this week by a majority of just three, she will plainly want to see Mr Paisley's future resolved one way or another without delay.

Cynics might look at the remarkably contrite and emotional apology offered in the House of Commons yesterday by Mr Paisley, after he previously claimed that last year's revelations in The Daily Telegraph were `devoid of fact or logic', and speculate that the ground is being prepared for a reduced sanction.

However, all concerned will be equally conscious of the intense spotlight which had been placed on the Tory/DUP pact and the uproar which would surround any hint of lobbying for leniency towards Mr Paisley.

Mrs May was able to avoid most of the tough questions during her Fermanagh engagement yesterday but during quieter moments she must have wondered how long her party's link with the DUP can be sustained.

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