Political news

Arlene Foster confirms watchdog probe into Ian Paisley Maldives holiday claims

DUP MP Ian Paisley apologising last year to fellow MPs for failing to register two family holidays funded by the Sri Lankan government. Picture by PA Wire

IAN Paisley's luxury family holidays to the Maldives are being probed by Westminster's standards watchdog, his party leader has confirmed.

Arlene Foster told the BBC that the "parliamentary authorities are investigating" claims surrounding the North Antrim MP's trips to the Indian Ocean archipelago in 2014 and 2016.

The DUP leader's remarks are the first confirmation that Mr Paisley is again under investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone.

Details around the holidays were revealed in two separate BBC Spotlight programmes, broadcast in December 2018 and June this year.

The former Stormont junior minister was last year suspended from Westminster for an unprecedented 30 sitting days following a previous probe into undeclared luxury holidays to Sri Lanka in 2013.

His suspension for "serious misconduct" led to the first recall petition in Westminster's history, which fell 444 signatures short of the 10,000 constituents' signatures necessary to trigger a by-election.

In the aftermath of the latest revelations about Mr Paisley's overseas trips, Mrs Foster said Spotlight raised "serious issues" and they would be dealt with by party officers.

On last night's episode of The View, she was asked about the party's investigation.

"As you know the parliamentary authorities are investigating that and will have to deal with all those issues," she said.

Under strict rules, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards cannot confirm or deny whether an investigation into an MP's conduct is being carried out.

Asked about the internal probe, the DUP leader said: "As you know due process has to be followed in all of those issues... due process means that sometimes you have to wait."

In June's Spotlight programme it was claimed that one of a number of undeclared luxury family holidays Mr Paisley reportedly took was paid for by a former minister in the Maldives government, while another trip had also been complimentary.

Last December's programme raised queries over who paid for a luxury holiday the DUP MP and his family took to the Coco Bodu Hithi resort in the Maldives in 2016.

Mr Paisley said then that he paid for part of the holiday and the rest was paid for by a friend and he was satisfied it did not have to be declared at Westminster.

He did not reveal the identity of this friend, but added that the friend was unconnected with his work and has received no benefit as a result of his work.

June's follow-up programme reported that the friend was Mohamed Shainee, who at the time of Mr Paisley's trip to Coco Bodu Hithi was the Maldives fisheries and agriculture minister.

Mr Shainee told the programme he did not pay for the trip but the hotel's owners claimed the minister settled the bill.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access