In the latest financial scandal to embroil the North’s largest unionist party, a newspaper has alleged that prominent DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr accepted holidays worth a hundred thousand pounds from a country he is now helping to secure a trade deal.
The DUP MP for North Antrim had been due to appear on the BBC Newsnight programme on Thursday night to discuss “religion and politics”, but withdrew after he Daily Telegraph unveiled a front page story with the headline “The MP, the #100k gifts & the Brexit trade deal. Questions over DUP MP’s register of interests after Sri Lanka trip.”
Two all-expenses-paid trips were reportedly provided to the Paisley family by the Sri Lankan government and were not declared this on the parliament’s register of interests.
Mr Paisley, one of 10 unionist MPs propping up British prime minister Theresa May’s Conservative government through a confidence and supply arrangement, denied the reports.
He wrote on Twitter: “The Daily Telegraph article is defamatory. It is devoid of fact or logic. Referred to my lawyer. I will refer myself to the parliamentary commissioner for standards.”
Earlier this week Mr Paisley posted a photograph on Twitter of himself with Sri Lankan official Amari Wijewardene outside the House of Parliament in London.
He wrote that he was “With Sri Lanka high commissioner to discuss NI-Sri Lanka trade deal after Brexit”.
Mr Paisley has been vocal in his support for the Sri Lankan government in recent years. Authorities there have been accused of allowing continuing human rights abuses, including torture and illegal detention of Tamil rebels.
In 2013 when questions were raised over whether the English queen Elizabeth Windsor should be involved in a Commonwealth heads of government meeting in the country Mr Paisley said he was “startled” at the view she should not.
“We should stretch out our hand to Sri Lanka; we should not step on Sri Lanka,” he said at the time.
Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh MP tweeted that Paisley had “defended government of Sri Lanka in every debate I’ve had on terrible human rights abuses against Tamils”.