WATCH: Ian Paisley admits ‘deep embarrassment’ over Sri Lanka row in emotional apology
Ian Paisley has apologised to Parliament for after failing to declare family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government worth tens of thousands of pounds.
The DUP MP was suspended from the Commons for 30 days after watchdogs found he made three visits to Sri Lanka in 2013, two of which were not registered with the authorities under anti-sleaze rules.
In a damning report, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards found Mr Paisley acted as a “paid advocate” for the Sri Lankan government..
His absence could mark a major blow for Theresa May, whose working majority will be reduced by one until November, as ministers try to pass Brexit legislation.
In an emotional speech, Mr Paisley, who has served the Northern Ireland seat since 2010 offered his “unreserved apology”, while explaining that he regretted the sanction handed to him.
“It is with profound personal regret and deep personal embarrassment that I have to make this statement,” he told MPs.
“In 2013 in the course of my first parliament, I failed to properly register and properly declare two overseas visits. I had no ulterior motive for that genuine mistake. I do recognise how serious a mistake it was.
“As a member of parliament, I know I have personal responsibility to seek to be above reproach. I acknowledge that registration of such matters and subsequent declarations must be adhered to diligently. I accept my total failure in that matter.”
He added that the “profoundest of all apologies” went to his North Antrim constituents.
“I have given an unreserved apology to the House and to colleagues and I take the opportunity to do so again from my place here and I do it without qualification. I say sorry and apologise for the failings that were identified in the standards committee report.”
“I am disappointed that I was not able to persuade the committee of the weight of my arguments on some of the major matters of mitigation, especially on the issue of paid advocacy, however I accept the report, but I do so regret its sanctions.
“I believe I conduct myself with colleagues with integrity and 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.”
Watch his address to MPs below:
In her report, Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone said that following his Sri Lankan trips, Mr Paisley wrote a letter to the then-Prime Minister David Cameron about a United Nations resolution on the country, which stands accused of a string of human rights violations.
The overseas visits included seven helicopter flights and hospitality for the MP's family.
Ms Stone said: "These two visits to Sri Lanka provided a very substantial personal benefit to Mr Paisley and his family. I find it surprising that such an experienced MP did not ask himself whether it was proper to accept such benefits from a foreign government.
"I also find it surprising that he did not realise that, if accepted, these benefits would call into question his impartiality when he next spoke about the affairs of that government."