Emotional Ian Paisley apologises for 'total failure' after suspension from House of Commons over £100,000 undeclared holidays
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Emotional Ian Paisley apologises for 'total failure' after suspension from House of Commons over £100,000 undeclared holidays

DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr has begged his constituents to retain confidence in him during an emotional House of Commons apology over undeclared holidays.

The North Antrim MP is facing calls to resign after the Commons Standards Committee recommended a "severe" punishment of 30 days over allegations he failed to officially register two family trips worth £100,000 (€112,000) to Sri Lanka.

The holidays, in March and July 2013, were paid for entirely by the Sri Lankan government.

Following the trips, Paisley wrote to then Home Secretary Theresa May in support of Sri Lanka over a proposed UN resolution.

The Committee found that these actions amounted to "paid advocacy" and added that Paisley had brought the Commons into disrepute.

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The 51-year-old said it was with "profound personal regret and deep personal embarrassment" that he had to apologise and acknowledge his failure to declare and register the two trips.

However, Paisley denied he had any "ulterior motive for that genuine mistake” in 2013, adding that he accepted his "total failure" before offering another unreserved apology "without qualification".

He said he had always conducted himself with "openness and integrity" and took his parliamentary duties seriously.

"That is why I have such remorse about the matter as I believe it goes against the grain of who I am," he added.

"Especially how it is portrayed."

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.”

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MPs who are suspended from the House for more than 10 days are open to a recall petition.

If more than 10% of Mr Paisley's North Antrim constituents were to sign such a petition calling for his removal, the seat would be declared vacant and a by-election would follow.

Mr Paisley said his constituents had given him “unwavering support” since 2010, adding: “I hope they will continue to have that confidence in me in the future.”

The Belfast native, born to DUP founder Ian Paisley and his wife Eileen in 1966, first assumed office as MP for the North Antrim constituency in May 2010.

His suspension means Prime Minister Theresa May will be short of one of the 10 DUP MPs propping up her minority Conservative government during a period that could see a number of Brexit votes prove crucial.