The DUP’s Ian Paisley begged his constituents to retain confidence in him during an emotional apology in the British House of Commons for a major breach of parliamentary rules.
The North Antrim MP has faced calls to quit and the prospect of a by-election after a parliamentary watchdog recommended that he be suspended from the Commons for 30 days for failing to register two family holidays funded by the Sri Lankan government.
Mr Paisley said it was with “profound personal regret and deep personal embarrassment” that he had to make a statement as he acknowledged he failed to declare and register the two trips.
However, he denied he had any “ulterior motive for that genuine mistake” in 2013, adding that he accepted his “total failure” and offered another apology “without qualification”.
His voice cracked with emotion as he told the Commons: “I say sorry and apologise for the failings that were identified in the Standards Committee report.”
Mr Paisley said his constituents have given him “unwavering support” since 2010, adding: “I hope they will continue to have that confidence in me in future.”
The Commons Standards Committee outlined the sanction for Mr Paisley, son of the late DUP founder, the Rev Ian Paisley, saying he had committed “serious misconduct” and his actions “were of a nature to bring the House of Commons into disrepute”.
The report said that the cost of the hospitality may have been “significantly more” than Mr Paisley’s £50,000 estimate, with the holidays including business-class air travel, accommodation at first-class hotels, and more for him and his wider family.
During his apology, he said: “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.
“The eighth-century prophet Isaiah said: ‘You were angry with me, that anger has turned away, you comfort me.’ I hope to learn that lesson.”
Mr Paisley’s potential suspension would start in September if MPs approve it.
Members who are suspended from the Commons for more than 10 days are open to a recall petition.
A by-election would be triggered if 10% of the electorate in Mr Paisley’s North Antrim constituency sign that petition.
The suspension would also mean British prime minister Theresa May will be shorn of one of the 10 DUP MPs propping up her minority government.
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