Political news

Ian Paisley: 'I have never run away from an election in my life and don't intend to now'

 Ian Knox cartoon July 24 2018 - Unlike the Commons which is expected to impose a severe punishment on Ian Paisley, his party, according to one spokesman, considers he has been "punished enough"

Ian Paisley has said those seeking a by-election after his breach of parliamentary rules are "opportunists".

The North Antrim MP vowed to fight for his seat if he faces the electorate over his failure to declare two luxury family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

In March 2014, the senior Democratic Unionist lobbied against a proposed United Nations resolution to investigate alleged human rights abuses during a civil war on the Indian Ocean island without citing his financial benefits.

MPs at Westminster will decide later on Tuesday whether he should be suspended for a major breach of parliamentary rules.

If 10 per cent of his constituents sign a petition, an election will be called. 

Mr Paisley told his local paper, the Ballymena Guardian, he deeply regretted his actions.

He added: "There are also some who would have me booted out of Parliament and a by-election called to fill that vacancy.

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

"If a petition leads to a by-election make no mistake about it, I will seek re-election as I have never run away from an election in my life and don't intend to do so now."

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The North Antrim MP is one of 10 pro-Brexit Democratic Unionists helping to prop up Theresa May's minority government.

He has faced calls to quit after a parliamentary watchdog recommended he be suspended from the Commons for 30 days.

Mr Paisley has already denied he had any ulterior motive for that "genuine mistake" in 2013, adding that he accepted his "total failure" and offered an unreserved apology to the House of Commons.

The Commons Standards Committee said he had committed "serious misconduct" and his actions were of a nature to bring the Commons into disrepute.

The report said the cost of the hospitality may have been "significantly more" than Mr Paisley's £50,000 estimate, with the holidays including business-class air travel, accommodation at first-class hotels and more for him and his wider family.

The trips included meeting with Sri Lankan governmental figures. Ian Paisley offered an undated selfie taken in front of ice cream van at an eleventh night bonfire as proof he was not in Sri Lanka on July 11

Ian Paisley and DUP leader Arlene Foster at the party manifesto launch at the Old Court House in Antrim before the 2017 Westminster election. Picture by Mal McCann

Mr Paisley told the Ballymena Guardian he had worked in the island state on many occasions, discussing the Northern Ireland peace process and its relevance internationally.

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

The Irish News has learned that up to 10 locations in North Antrim would be used in an unprecedented public process to collect the signatures that could oust Ian Paisley from his Westminster seat. 

The north’s chief electoral officer is understood to have made provisional plans for the first recall petition in UK parliamentary history, which will be triggered on Tuesday if MPs ratify the sanction against the DUP representative recommended by the standards watchdog.

It is understood this would involve a series of public venues being made available for six weeks for voters to register their protest against the MP, who must resign if 7,500 signatures are gathered.

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