British DUP parliamentarian Ian Paisley Jr is under pressure to resign from his post, after being found guilty of accepting all expenses paid trips funded by the Sri Lankan government, before he lobbied against an United Nations Human Rights Council resolution.
Mr Paisley Jr has been suspended from the British parliament for 30 days after a damning report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards said his actions amounted to “paid advocacy”.
The DUP’s party leader Arlene Foster told BBC News NI that she had received a personal apology from Mr Paisley. However, when asked if he had her full support, Mrs Foster said “the issue was now a matter for party officers”.
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Paisley should do the “honourable thing” and quit.
“I think the charges made against him and findings against him are very serious,” she added. “I would imagine his constituents in North Antrim, and certainly public opinion across Ireland, would expect that having been sanctioned in the way he’s been sanctioned then he should do the honourable thing and step down.”
“This is an issue of integrity in government and in public office," said the Sinn Fein MP for Foyle, Elisha McCallion. “Sinn Féin stood last year in an election on a platform of equality, rights and integrity in government.
“Therefore there is an onus on the DUP to act decisively when wrongdoing has been exposed as is the case with Ian Paisley Jnr. There should be zero tolerance of abuse of public office for personal benefit… Ian Paisley Jnr should step down and resign with immediate effect. If he is not prepared to do the right thing then the DUP must demand his resignation.”
DUP MLA Jim Wells said if he was in Mr Paisley’s position "I'd be gone”. “But, I'm me, Ian Paisley is in a different position because of the strength within his constituency," the South Down MLA said.
"I have absolutely no doubt, even based on what Ian himself has said that what he has done is unacceptable. He has made a ghastly mistake.
TUV leader Jim Allister also commented on the issue saying, “Either right is right and wrong is wrong or it's not”. “Why should there be a difference made according to who you are," the North Antrim MLA said. "I think this is the real challenge to the DUP, are they going to stand up and do what's right or are they going to endorse this.
Colin McGrath of the SDLP also said that his party “will be seeking a recall petition to dismiss Paisley from Westminster, and should this trigger a by-election in North Antrim, Mr Paisley should not challenge the seat again”.
Mr Paisley issued a statement stating that he had “profound personal regret and deep personal embarrassment” over his failure to declare and register the two trips.
But he denied he had any “ulterior motive for that genuine mistake”. “I say sorry and apologise for the failings that were identified in the Standards Committee report,” he added.