Ian Paisley: MP challenges BBC to submit evidence of wrongdoing over Maldives trip

Ian Paisley MP
Ian Paisley MP

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley has challenged the BBC to submit evidence to support claims that he and his family took a luxury holiday that was part-funded by a Maldivian government minister.

Mr Paisley, who was suspended from Parliament last year for failing to declare two trips to Sri Lanka, was speaking for the first time since the claims about his family's trip to the Maldives in 2016 were made in a BBC Spotlight programme earlier this week.

The programme alleged the government minister part-paid for the trip and Mr Paisley failed to declare the holiday to the relevant Parliamentary authorities.

The Paisley family took the luxury holiday to the Maldives eight months after the DUP MP visited the country and lobbied on its government's behalf.

Mr Paisley previously said he paid for part of the trip and that a "long-term friend" who was unconnected to his work had paid for the other part.

The government minister alleged to have paid for part of the trip, Mohamed Shainee, has denied arranging or paying for the holiday.

"If the BBC think I have done anything wrong, all the BBC have to do is to submit evidence to the Parliamentary Commissioner," Mr Paisley told BBC NI political correspondent Stephen Walker.

"The independent authority can examine on all of those matters and make their own ruling. That's the only comment I can make."

He added: "I am always happy to talk at length to the BBC about all the matters and questions you may have.

"I would love to be able to give you a running commentary but I am not able."

Asked by the BBC if his constituents deserved a fuller explanation, Mr Paisley said: "Don't worry about my constituents; my constituents and me have a very good and sound relationship."

The UUP, Sinn Féin, Alliance and SDLP have referred the claims about Mr Paisley's Maldives trip to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards - an independent officer who oversees the Register of Members' Financial Interests and the Code of Conduct for MPs.

Mr Paisley stressed that if anyone has evidence of wrongdoing on his part they should submit it to the Parliamentary Commissioner for them to make their own ruling.