Northern Ireland news

Ian Paisley: Making headlines for the wrong reasons

Ian Paisley and Boris Johnson at a visit to Wrightbus in in 2006

IAN Paisley has routinely found himself making headlines. Here are just some of the controversies over the last decade.

2007

He caused a storm over comments that he was "repulsed" by gay people.

2008

He resigned as junior minister and admitted he made "mistakes" in a controversy over his lobbying for constituency issues.

While a Stormont ombudsman's investigation ruled that there was no evidence to suggest Mr Paisley had broken assembly rules, he said a series of stories about his lobbying on behalf of property developer Seymour Sweeney had taken their toll.

It had emerged that Mr Sweeney, whose proposals for a visitor centre at the Giant's Causeway were backed by Mr Paisley - including lobbying during negotiations on the St Andrews Agreement - was a member of the DUP.

In February, it emerged that Mr Paisley was on his father's payroll as a researcher in the constituency of North Antrim in addition to his roles as an assembly member and junior minister.

He resigned his ministerial position that month.

2009

In June, he was fined £5,000 for contempt of court after he refused to identify his sources to the Billy Wright inquiry. The LVF leader was shot dead by the INLA inside the Maze on December 27 1997.

2010

Since being elected to Westminster in 2010, he has been under scrutiny for expenses.

He topped the list of MPs in 2013 when he ran up a staffing, travel and accommodation bill of £232,000. He said these were "legitimate expenses signed off by IPSA and paid directly by the Parliament".

In January, he apologised for using a a racist slur on live radio. The prominent DUP figure used the word "chinky" during an interview on BBC Radio Ulster regarding Liam Neeson receiving the freedom of Ballymena.

2017

In April, Mr Paisley caused controversy after he said police officers who shot dead IRA man Colum Marks in Downpatrick in 1991 should be "given medals" rather than face further investigation.

2018

In April, he said he was willing to meet members of the Muslim community following criticism over sharing an anti-Islam message by right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins.

In same month, the local government auditor announced a review into a dinner hosted by Mr Paisley. It focussed on £1,500 paid by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council for a table at the event attended by Michael Gove.

In June, he claimed he had received a letter from Catholic priest who was 'urging his parishioners to vote DUP' over the party's anti-abortion stance. An extract Mr Paisley shared with the media made no mention of the priest’s congregation and how he would ask them to vote.

In the same month, the two men behind the controversial Leave.EU campaign walked out of a Westminster committee to have lunch with Mr Paisley and party colleague Sammy Wilson. Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore, were later pictured on a roof terrace of a House of Commons bar with the DUP MPs.

In July, he was handed an unprecedented 30-day suspension from Westminster over his failure to register two family holidays in 2013 paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

In September, he narrowly avoided a by-election after 7,099 people signed a recall petition to unseat him - 444 short of the required number.

Just months later, in December, a BBC Spotlight investigation revealed that Mr Paisley had received a holiday at a luxury Maldives resort after advocating on behalf of its government.

The MP, his wife and two sons received a full-board five-night stay at a Maldives resort in 2016 – at a time when the Maldives government was being criticised by the UN and Commonwealth for human rights abuses. Mr Paisley said the trip was paid for by himself and an unnamed friend.

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