Second council under investigation over Ian Paisley constituency dinner payment

Ian Paisley, MP for North Antrim
Ian Paisley, MP for North Antrim

A payment by a second Northern Ireland council for a table at DUP MP Ian Paisley’s constituency dinner is being investigated by the Electoral Commission, it has been reported.

The BBC report that Causeway Coast and Glens Council paid £1,500 for a table at an event hosted by the DUP’s Ian Paisley in September last year.

The event took place at the Tullyglass Hotel in Ballymena last year. Environment Secretary Michael Gove was the guest speaker.

It emerged earlier this year that the Electoral Commission is investigating money paid by Mid and East Antrim Council to sponsor a table at the constituency dinner.

The Commission described the money paid as a “donation from Mid and East Antrim Council to Ian Paisley MP” in a statement, the BBC report.

Causeway Coast and Glens council said the payment was within its guidelines.

In a statement to the BBC, the council said: “Council agreed to attend the event and invite guests who would benefit from both the subject matter and the potential networking opportunities.

“Those guests included representatives of our hospitality, food distribution and production, agriculture and leisure industries with an emphasis on the rural aspects of the borough.”

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson told the BBC: “This is public money and we are now talking about two councils spending over £3,000 of ratepayers’ money for something that was billed - and is all over the local newspapers - as a DUP fundraising event.”

The BBC also report that the Northern Ireland Auditor’s office has said it looked into the payment as part of a wider audit of Causeway Coast and Glens Council, while the Electoral Commission has said it is aware of the payment made by the council, but didn’t offer further comment because its investigation is ongoing.