I’ve heard a number of people tut-tutting about Ian Paisley Jr and the luxury Sri Lanka holiday row. I disagree: I think it’s better that such matters have come to light – it’s a tribute to the integriy of the independnent standards commissioner Kathryn Stone. Because this case is so patently riddled with dodgy elements, it demands action.
What happened? It’s all factual. In 2013, Mr Paisley took his family on two holidays to Sri Lanka. Good to see, family man, golden memories for the future. Except that the two holidays were luxury, all-expenses-paid holidays worth £100,000 according to the Daily Telegraph and worth somewhere around £50,000 according to Mr Paisley. And paid for by the Sri Lankan government.
The following year, 2014, Mr Paisley wrote to the then PM David Cameron, urging him to oppose a UN resolution regarding investigation of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. In the letter Mr Paisley made no mention of those two whizz-bang holidays. He also didn’t mention the holidays in his registration of interests to the House of Commons.
When the Daily Telegraph broke the story last year, Mr Paisley claimed it was “devoid of fact and logic”. Mr Paisley now says he’s let himself down, his family down, his party down. He’s being suspended from parliament for seven weeks.
OK. Let’s try a parallel of sorts. Supposing there’s a man in the neighborhood who looks like he might be charged with assault and battery of his wife, or a next-door neighbour, or a drinking buddy. Supposing I write a letter to the authorities, urging them to drop the matter, that this is a fine upstanding man who wouldn’t hurt a grass-hopper. The police come round and talk to me about the matter, and I repeat my assertion and don’t mention that the bruiser under suspicion has given me a back-hander of, oh let’s say £2,000…Too much? OK, £1,000. And supposing somebody says I’ve received this back-hander and I insist their story has no basis in fact- and then a week later I accept that I got a backhander for £1,000 and I’ve let myself down. Would your estimation of me go up or down? And would you think I was a right and fitting person to have a well-paid local job which demanded honesty all year and in all seasons.
The phrase “up to the eyeballs” comes to mind. And no, Virginia, we’ll not start talking about Barry McElduff. Not until we come to a conclusion on this particular matter. By the way – did you hear that Mr Paisley sees himself as a right and fitting person to represent North Antrim? Because he says if there’s a by-election – and there well may be- he’ll contest it.
You have to admire the depth and quality of the brass neck, how it glistens and dazzles in the summer sun.