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Media descend on town as Sri Lanka storm breaks on MP

Dessie Blackadder

Reporter:

Dessie Blackadder

BALLYMENA people played ‘dodge the camera’ today as media outlets sent teams to the town in search of local views on MP Ian Paisley and the ‘Sri Lankagate’ episode.

And the views expressed differed widely from pledges of unconditional support from diehard supporters to calls for him to resign emanating from other factions.

Earlier today, the DUP MP apologised in the House of Commons and admitted "deep personal embarrassment" after failing to declare two luxury holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

Mr Paisley said he had made a "genuine mistake".

He added: ““I take my duties as a Member of Parliament seriously. I believe I conduct myself with colleagues with integrity, with openness and that is why I have such remorse about the matter as I believe it goes against the grain of who I am – especially how it is portrayed.

“It is to my constituents, who have sent me here since 2010, that I make the profoundest of all apologies.

“They have honoured me with unwavering support to be their voice and I hope they will continue to have that confidence in me in the future.

“We all in this chamber know that in public life if you make mistakes they are amplified, and rightly so – that’s the nature of the job all of us do and all of us understand that.

“But I believe in a politics and I believe in politicians that can admit human frailty, that can apologise, can mean it and can move on – because that’s what real life is all about.”

A parliamentary watchdog has recommended that he be suspended from the Commons for 30 days, and the controversy also has the potential to trigger a by-election.

According to the BBC, Mr Paisley spoke briefly outside Westminster.

The station’s website reported:

Asked why he accepted the luxury family holidays to Sri Lanka, he simply said: "I would ask people to carefully consider my very genuine and my heartfelt comments. I've made my statement fully to the House. I believe it's up to other people to consider now what happens next."

Asked whether he would run as a candidate if a by-election was called in North Antrim, he said: "The course of action will take its course of action. Thank you very much."

The DUP is considering its response.

Party leader Arlene Foster said she had received a personal apology from Mr Paisley.

When asked if he had her full support, Mrs Foster said the issue was now a matter for party officers.

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