Northern Ireland news

Ian Paisley claims the rules he broke were 'confusing'

Ian Paisley said the rules on registering gifts and hospitality were confusing

IAN Paisley has claimed the rules governing MPs' registration of gifts and hospitality were "confusing".

The North Antrim MP made the claim in his local paper ahead of being barred from the House of Commons for 30 sitting days for failing to declare two luxury family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government, for which he later lobbied.

MPs are supposed to register all gifts with a value of more than £600. It has been claimed that the cost of the two holidays in 2013 was as much as £100,000, though Mr Paisley maintains it was around half that amount.

Writing in the Ballymena Guardian and sister titles yesterday, the shamed MP said he regretted his "genuine mistake".

But in what appeared to be an effort to explain his actions, Mr Paisley claimed the standards commissioner and Westminster's corresponding committee agreed that rules which demand that MPs register overseas visits were confusing.

"It appears to be the breaking of that confused rule that has earned me the most punishment," he said.

Ian Knox cartoon July 20 2018 - Ian Paisley apologises to parliament, party and constituents, but not to Sri Lankans

Mr Paisley claimed it was "harsh" to describe his lobbying in favour of the controversial Sri Lankan regime as paid advocacy.

He had argued against a proposed United Nations resolution to investigate alleged human rights abuses during a civil war on the Indian Ocean island.

Amnesty International has said enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture and other serious violations and abuses were committed with impunity before, during and in the aftermath of an armed conflict between Sri Lankan government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that ended in 2009.

Mr Paisley wrote that he had worked in Sri Lanka on many occasions, discussing the Northern Ireland peace process and its relevance internationally.

He thanked by name the four party colleagues who turned up to support him as he apologised in the House of Commons last week.

"I took comfort from the presence of my DUP colleagues Jim Shannon, Sammy Wilson, Paul Girvan and Emma Little Pengelly, and whilst others who are my political opponents watched and listened, I detected some understanding and forgiveness," he said.

However, the DUP MP claimed those seeking a by-election were "opportunists" and vowed to defend his seat.

"There are also some who would have me booted out of parliament and a by-election called to fill that vacancy," he said.

"They are opportunists, some with questionable motives, and I can tell them that I have no intention of going quietly into the night."

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