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Ian Paisley in no position to lecture others

Ian Paisley had no sooner returned to Westminster after a 30-day suspension for breaching parliamentary rules than he was urging the secretary of state to act on what he considered the most pressing matter of the day.

It was not Brexit or even the parlous state of the health and education systems in Northern Ireland, or the failure to take decisions that affect people's everyday lives.

The issue that concerned him most was the building of a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland and he wanted Karen Bradley to look at the feasibility of the scheme, which has been estimated would cost in the region of £20 billion, even if the overwhelming logistical difficulties of such a project could be overcome.

Mr Paisley, of course, has his own way of doing things although there is little sign to date that following a record suspension for failing to declare lavish hospitality from the Sri Lankan government and then lobbying David Cameron on behalf of the controversial regime, a chastened figure has returned to the House of Commons.

In her conference speech recently DUP leader Arlene Foster spoke of occasions when 'behaviour in our ranks has not matched the standards expected of people holding public office.'

However, in most political parties Mr Paisley's misconduct would have resulted in a severe sanction, including expulsion.

It emerged this week that the MP has shared his observations on the recall petition which was triggered by his suspension, with the chief electoral officer Virginia McVea.

The MP escaped the ignominy of having to fight a by election after the petition narrowly failed to reach the required threshold in September but that positive outcome did not prevent the MP criticising the procedure for collecting signatures, which he said was 'not transparent.'

Constructive points about this process must always be considered but given the many questions that surround Mr Paisley's conduct, he is hardly in a position to lecture anyone on the need for greater openness.

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