Ballymoney DUP Alderman and North Antrim DUP Chair John Finlay.
BALLYMONEY DUP Alderman John Finlay has expressed his full confidence in North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, and has called on his accusers to ‘put up or shut up’.
The Chair of North Antrim DUP Association, Alderman Finlay has described Mr Paisley as an “excellent public representative” in the wake of last Tuesday's BBC Spotlight programme.
In that programme it was alleged that a family holiday at the luxury Coco Bodu Hithi resort in the Maldives was paid for by a Minister in the Maldivian Government Mr Mohamed Shainee.
This is something Mr Shainee has denied and Mr Paisley himself has yet to respond to the allegations.
Two North Antrim MLA's, Sinn Fein's Philip McGuigan and the UUP leader Robin Swann (as have Alliance and SDLP MLA's) have already written to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards requesting that the latest claims be investigated.
Alderman Finlay said: "As Chairman of North Antrim Democratic Unionist Association I want to place on public record my full confidence in the Member of Parliament for North Antrim, Ian Paisley. Ian is an excellent public representative who works tirelessly both within the constituency and in Parliament.
“Once again, he has come under the media and political spotlight as a result of the latest Spotlight documentary produced by the Biased Broadcasting Corporation, and the usual suspects are lining up to condemn him. Surely under basic rules of justice, a person is deemed to be innocent until proven guilty. If the BBC, or any of the others who are now criticising him, have any hard evidence, let them present it to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. It is time for them to put up or shut up.
“It is worth remembering that no tax payers money is involved in anything that Ian Paisley is alleged to have done. However, as a BBC licence payer, I would be interested to know how much it has cost to send a journalist and her team to the Maldives to produce this latest documentary.
“Sinn Fein have, of course, been quick to attack Ian Paisley, but I note from today’s News Letter (27 June) that they have serious questions to answer about how their MPs have registered overseas trips. A case of the pot calling the kettle black?”
Last year Mr Paisley was suspended from Parliament for 30 days after the Parliamentary Committee on Standards concluded that he was in breach of the Code of Conduct in relation to visits he and his family made to Sri Lanka in 2013.
However Mr Paisley survived a Petition of Recall in September that would have forced a by-election.
Alderman Finlay had steadfastly backed the North Antrim MP throughout this period and not unexpectedly has done so again.
North Antrim MLA's Robin Swann and Philip McGuigan and others have written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards over the latest allegations.
UUP leader, Robin Swann MLA, said: “As a North Antrim elected representative it is disappointing that my constituency is yet again in the news headlines for all the wrong reasons because of the actions of Ian Paisley MP. He seems to be involved in a never ending catalogue of incidents."
Sinn Féin's Philip McGuigan said: “I have called on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate the claims but Ian Paisley’s own party leadership should also end its silence and confirm what action it intends to take in light of this latest scandal.
North Antrim MLA and TUV leader Jim Allister said: “Even by Ian Paisley’s standards, the latest BBC Spotlight revelations are shocking.
“There is clearly now much more for the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to examine, not least the information that the secret benefactor was a Maldives Government minister. In addition, there are now two further trips to be investigated, none of which were ever declared.
“My wider concern is the further damage done to Unionism PLC. Such self-inflicted injury is not what we need or expect from a Unionist MP.”
Alliance Ballymena Councillor Patricia O’Lynn has said: “Alliance is raising a formal complaint with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, asking for a full investigation into the conduct of Mr Paisley be carried out. If this behaviour is true and he is found to be guilty of it, Mr Paisley will have once again let down not only his constituents but also himself.”
SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MLA has also referred Ian Paisley MP to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.