Northern Ireland news

Ian Paisley took further trips to the Maldives

DUP MP Ian Paisley. Picture by Arthur Allison.

DUP MP Ian Paisley accepted another luxury holiday to the Maldives for his family staying at an exclusive $1,500 dollars a night villa - but paid less than $300 for it.

BBC Spotlight reported last night that the North Antrim MP stayed with his wife, Fiona and two children at the exclusive Ocean Pool resort in April 2014.

Tweets on social media by Mrs Paisley, which have since been deleted, were linked to the luxury destination.

She also posted a picture on her Facebook account after the trip, writing: "Remembering that view, bliss".

The family only paid for "extras" at the 'luxury destination' villa in Kandolhu which had just undergone a multi-million pound makeover, according to Spotlight.

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

A separate three-day trip to the 'Paradise Island Resort' in the Maldives in January 2016 was also revealed.

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This took place three weeks before an official parliamentary trip with other MPs where Mr Paisley lobbied for the Maldives government at a time when it was was under scrutiny for jailing political opponents and journalists.

Neither of the overseas trips were declared to the Westminster members' register of financial interest.

Read More: Ian Paisley and Sri Lanka - how the scandal unfolded

Parliamentary rules require MPs to register any overseas travel they don't pay for themselves but which could be seen to be linked to their official roles.

The revelations come six months after a previous Spotlight investigation found Mr Paisley and his family had enjoyed another luxury holiday in the Maldives in October and November 2016 - again without paying for it in full or declaring it.

At the time, the MP refused to disclose who paid for the bulk of the holiday, instead referring to a 'long-term friend' who had footed most of the bill.

Last night's programme claimed former Maldivian government minister, Dr Mohamed Shainee, had funded it.

Dr Shainee, a former fisheries minister involved in foreign policy, repeatedly denied the payment and said he was not a personal friend of Mr Paisley - but only knew him in an official capacity.

However, the owner of the luxury Maldivian 'Coco' resort, Hussain Hilmy, told the BBC that the government minister had negotiated a rate for Mr Paisley and his family and then paid the bill.

DUP Fundraiser, Ballymena - Jacob Rees Mogg - 31st January 2019..Ian Paisley greets Jacob Rees Mogg as he arrives for the DUP fundraiser at the Tullyglass hotel in Ballymena...Photograph by Declan Roughan.

Mr Hilmy is also a former minister in the Maldives government and has held a number of other important public posts.

The revelations comes two years after Mr Paisley was suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days for 'serious misconduct' after failing to declare two family holidays to Sri Lanka in 2013.

Last December, DUP leader Arlene Foster pledged that she would examine the claims made about the 2016 Maldives family holiday "soon".

"I expect and the public expect high standards of those of us who are in public life," she said at the time.

In a statement to the BBC last night in response to the latest revelations, the DUP said that "discipline is an internal party matter", adding that all its members "are treated fairly and have a right to due process".

The Irish News reported last week that six months after the DUP said it would consider the "very serious matters" raised the the previous Spotlight investigation that no public action had been taken.

Tory environment minister Michael Gove (centre) met senior DUP figures at the weekend including Ian Paisley, Paul Girvan, Diane Dodds and Nigel Dodds

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