Friday 22 November 2019

Ian Paisley Jnr, the €100k holiday gifts and the Brexit trade deal

Mr Paisley, his wife and four children flew business class, stayed in fine hotels and were provided with a chauffeur-driven Mercedes

DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr Picture: Liam McBurney
DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr Picture: Liam McBurney

Claire Newell, Edward Malnick and Nicola Smith

Ian Paisley Jnr faces questions over holidays worth more than €100,000 he accepted from a country he is now helping to secure a post-Brexit trade deal.

The prominent Democratic Unionist Party MP accepted two all-expenses-paid trips from the Sri Lankan government, according to documents seen by the ‘Daily Telegraph’.

Mr Paisley took his wife and four children to the country, according to the reports. They flew business class, stayed in fine hotels and were provided with a chauffeur-driven Mercedes.

However, the trips were never disclosed in the House of Commons register of interests.

Mr Paisley is one of 10 DUP members relied on by Prime Minister Theresa May to prop up her government.

Shortly after the holidays Mr Paisley spoke in Parliament and suggested Queen Elizabeth could visit Sri Lanka to aid the peace process there.

This week, Mr Paisley posted a picture of himself with Amari Wijewardene, the Sri Lankan high commissioner, outside the Houses of Parliament captioned: “With Sri Lanka high commissioner to discuss NI-Sri Lanka trade deal after Brexit.”

Two days after the meeting in Parliament, Mr Paisley posted a picture of himself alongside Liam Fox, Britain’s International Trade Secretary. It was captioned: “With Liam Fox discussing our trade agreements post Brexit.”

The Sri Lankan high commission in London said yesterday that Mr Paisley was considered to be in a good position to help “enhance trade relations between Sri Lanka and UK” given the DUP’s role supporting Mrs May’s government.

The trips, which took place in 2013, have also raised questions given Sri Lanka’s questionable human rights record. Later that year, Conservative MPs were banned from accepting trips funded by the Sri Lankan government due to concern about the regime’s lobbying tactics.

The two trips took place in March and July 2013. On the first, he stayed for 10 days and took his entire family. On the second, he stayed for seven days and took his wife, Fiona, and two of their children.

The Sri Lankan ministry of external affairs is understood to have paid for business-class flights for the couple and their children, costing about €17,000, and arranged six hotels across the two trips, picking up the bill for their meals at the hotels.

The government also paid for helicopters to shuttle Mr Paisley and his family around, at a cost of €12,500 for one of the trips, with its defence ministry clearing space for them to land.

During their stays, they were taken to attractions including an elephant sanctuary, a national park and a Buddhist temple, with the costs of the excursions covered by the government.

By failing to declare his trips, Mr Paisley appears to be in breach of parliamentary rules – as funded trips that cost more than £300 (€320) must be declared.

Mr Paisley has been a vocal supporter of the Sri Lankan government in recent years, calling for “positive trading opportunities” between Britain and the island, as well as highlighting how human rights abuses may have been committed by Tamils as well as the government.

Mr Paisley declined to answer questions from ‘The Telegraph’ about his trips to Sri Lanka, and his subsequent discussions with the high commissioner on a post-Brexit trade deal. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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