Another day, another scandal involving someone awarded the Freedom of the City of London. This time it’s Ian Paisley Jr who was made a Freeman in 2015.
DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr is set to be suspended from the Commons for a record 30 days for “serious misconduct” – and voters could boot him out of office.
The extraordinary penalty was announced by a watchdog today in a damning report on two trips the MP made with his family to Sri Lanka – paid for by the country’s government.
Today’s report found Mr Paisley failed to register the trips, both in 2013, within 28 days and later engaged in “paid advocacy” in a 2014 letter to the Prime Minister.
“We have concluded that Mr Paisley’s actions were of a nature to bring the House of Commons into disrepute,” the Commons Standards Committee declared today.
“We conclude that Mr Paisley has committed serious misconduct.”
If approved in a vote by MPs, the suspension of 30 sitting days will be the longest since records began in 1949…
If approved the suspension will also trigger a process that could see the MP booted out of office…
Today’s report declared: “Mr Paisley’s failure to register the hospitality he received from the Sri Lankan government is made more serious by the scale of that hospitality.
DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr suspended from the Commons for record 30 days for ‘serious misconduct’ by Dan Bloom, Daily Mirror, 18 July 2018.
Paisley Jr already had an unsavory record when he received his Freedom of the City of London three years ago, as this opinion piece makes clear:
In 2008, he (Paisley Jr) had to step down as a Stormont minister after an avalanche of revelations about dealings with a property developer pal of his – it was so extensive, there isn’t the space to cover it here, but it involved an acquired holiday home, his constituency office and his ridiculous lobbying efforts (including during 2006 peace talks, putting a government grant to his property pal on his “wish list” presented to Tony Blair).
His MP career is also worthy of note.
In his first term, between 2010 and 2015, he only attended and/or voted in about 34 per cent of votes, one of the very worst rates in parliament. Despite this, in 2012-2013, he claimed more expenses than any other MP – £232,000. He claimed that was the consequence of being so busy helping constituents, yet his first term saw two major factories close in Ballymena alone, resulting in about 2,000 job losses, along with a spike in empty shopfronts in the town.
While it would be hyperbole to put that all at Paisley’s door, his lack of productivity for our town is significant. All the while, he was doing things like privately earning £7,500 flying to Uganda on behalf of a French financial firm, which is why he missed the vote on Syrian military intervention in 2013. North Antrim only received eight Foreign Direct Investment visits between 2010-2015, and received some of the lowest investment by Invest Northern Ireland, the region’s economic development agency (making up only 1.9 per cent of the total invested in 2014).
All of which could lead a cynical mind to believe his advocacy is too often for private interests, not his constituency’s. This view may have been reinforced by the recent disclosure of private emails from Paisley to a foreign government official where my MP claimed to have “two significant arrangements” with big oil suppliers in Oman or Nigeria who could “very quickly” help get a deal for a “lucrative project”. He has since retorted that he had “never brokered any oil deal” for anyone, he’d “never met him or any of his colleagues in Africa” and that it was a “total fabrication and nonsense” to suggest that “some sort of illicit trade deal” had been carried out.
In the end, the commissioner’s finding that he has brought parliament into disrepute is, in my opinion, what he has been doing to my hometown for a decade – not just due to my grievances set out above, but his well-documented homophobia.
As one of his constituents, Ian Paisley Jr’s suspension from parliament is no surprise. Here’s why by Michael Hugh Walker, The Independent, 18 July 2018.
Ian Paisley Jr was a controversial figure long before the City of London decided to ‘honour’ him. Last year the decision to give the same award to Aung San Suu Kyi was met with a storm of protest before it was even handed out:
Aung San Suu Kyi could be stripped of her Honorary Freedom of the City after the Court of Common Council voted in favour of reviewing the processes of awarding and revoking the top honour.
The de facto leader of Myanmar would be the first person to have the Freedom revoked after councillors raised concerns over her inaction in the face of the military’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State.
The City Corporation presented Ms Suu Kyi with the accolade in May amidst a storm of controversy that saw members of the Common Council boycott the ceremony and protesters picket Guildhall.
Now the authority will investigate the possibility of revoking the award, which is the highest honour the Corporation can bestow, following a motion tabled by Portsoken councillor Munsur Ali.
In his motion, presented to the Court of Common Council on 12 October, Mr Ali called for the authority to express its “considerable disappointment at the inaction of Aung San Suu Kyi” and raised concerns over the proposal being “sprung on them without any advance notice or ability to question whether it was the right time to offer her the Honorary Freedom”.
He conceded that while the military wields considerable power in the Rakhine State, Ms Suu Kyi had “failed to suitably stand up against the horrifying genocide of [the] Rohingya minority”.
“As a consequence I feel we need to debate whether or not she is still worthy of Freedom of the City,” he said.
The motion came less than a week after Oxford City Council voted unanimously to strip Ms Suu Kyi of its own Freedom, saying it was “no longer appropriate”.
The council will hold a special meeting to remove the honour towards the end of next month. Several councillors, including Mr Ali, Thomas Anderson and Richard Crossan, have all called for the same course of action from the City, however there is currently no procedure to strip a freeman of their status…
“Following concerns raised by some elected members about the Honorary Freedom of the City of London given to Aung San Suu Kyi in May 2017, the Court approved a motion to review the procedures relating to the award of the Honorary Freedom to high-profile individuals and how, in exceptional circumstances, it could be withdrawn.”
Council votes to review Aung San Suu Kyi honour by Jo Davy, City Matters, 18 October 2017.
We can find no evidence that the City of London has done anything to resolve this matter to date. On 15 February 2018 City AM reported: “The City of London Corporation is grappling with a decision over whether to strip Aung San Suu Kyi of the Freedom of the City..” (City of London’s Council muddled over honour for Aung San Suu Kyi by Helen Cahill). So despite earlier claims the issue would be sorted out in October 2017, it seems nothing has been done about the City’s superannuated ‘honours’ system.
Protest against Aung San Suu Kyi being awarded Freedom of the City of London.
Many will conclude that the powers that be in the City of London don’t want to do anything about stripping unsavory characters of honours, or ensuring they don’t get them in the first place. After all many of these shady characters are also people they do business with, and could be seen as made in their own image. The hard right councilor Mark Wheatley has tweeted in support of Aung San Suu Kyi but more damning is the fact that the need to have a mechanism for revoking Freedom of the City awards had been evident for some years. Take, for example, the scandal over the paedophile City freeman Keith Harding that blew up in 2014 in the wake of the Jimmy Savile sex abuse inquiry:
A British antiques expert who restored items for royalty was a child abuser involved in a notorious paedophile campaign group, the BBC can reveal.
Keith Harding was active in the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), he appeared alongside Jimmy Savile in a Christmas edition of the BBC’s Jim’ll Fix It (a show featuring children).
Harding, who died in June, had been convicted of sex offences in the 1950s… Child protection campaigners have called for the official inquiry into historical abuse to examine the extent of Harding’s business and political links.
He was convicted of indecent assault against four children aged eight and nine in the late 1950s and was a “schedule 1” offender – meaning his convictions remained on his police file for life.
But he was later given the Freedom of the City of London and became a member of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, meeting business and political figures at the height of his career…
Harding’s involvement with PIE, which campaigned for the age of consent to be reduced to four, has never previously come to light.
BBC News has seen confidential social services reports from 1995 which confirm Harding’s “PIE involvement”…
Social services documents described his convictions as a “real cause for concern” and warned that children should not be left unsupervised with him…
PIE disbanded in 1984 and a number of its known members have since been convicted of child abuse offences.
Speaking to social workers in the 1990s, Harding denied membership of the group and said he acted as a “counsellor” to its members.
But a document held by police in the mid-1980s listed Keith Harding as PIE member number 329 next to his north London address.
The Metropolitan Police’s Operation Fairbank, which is investigating allegations of historical abuse, is understood to be aware of Harding’s background…
The Corporation of London said Harding’s vetting for the Freedom of the City was carried out by his livery company.
About 1,800 people receive the honour each year.
The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers said Keith Harding did not disclose his offences and was “never involved in the running of the company”.
Paedophile group linked to Savile show guest by Tom Bateman, BBC News website, 17 November 2014.
If the City of London was a transparent and democratic local authority it would stringently vet those being awarded its honours and have a mechanism for revoking them should reasons for doing so come to light once they are bestowed. Unfortunately the City of London is feudal and in desperate need of democratic reform, with its honours system being as out of step with modern standards as its political set up. Not only are eighty-percent of its councilors elected on undemocratic business votes, and as a result its residents have virtually no influence over its policies, it is necessary to have been bestowed the Freedom of the City of London to stand in local elections. In other words, anyone who wants to contest a City of London council seat has to first apply for a dubious ‘honour’ that’s been doled out to paedophiles and human rights abusers. That in itself, let alone the rigged political system, is enough to put many off contesting council seats.
Ian Paisley Jr, Donald Trump, Ian Paisley and Eric Trump meeting in New York circa 2006. In a piece published in the Belfast Telegraph on 10 November 2016, Paisley Jr boasts that Trump said to his father at this meeting: “he had followed some of his (Ian Paisley’s) political activity and was ‘honoured to be in the presence of a political legend’…”
Until the City of London and its ‘honours’ system are democratically reformed, we’d suggest any self-respecting individual who is a ‘freeman’ of this backward municipality returns their ‘Freedom of the City’ award.
Billingsgate alderman Matthew Richardson and common councillor (2013-2017) Adam Richardson pose with protestant extremist DUP MP Ian Paisley Junior who is holding his certificate after he’d received the Freedom of City of London in 2015. According to Paisley’s website these two brothers proposed him for this ‘honour’. So while the City of London pays lip service to diversity, it also likes to reward diversity’s foes. Paisley Junior is notorious as a homophobe and advocate of extrajudicial killings.
Header image Aung San Suu Kyi at The Guildhall to receive the Freedom of the City of London.
DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr suspended from the Commons for record 30 days for ‘serious misconduct‘ by Dan Bloom: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/breaking-dup-mp-ian-paisley-12939955
As one of his constituents, Ian Paisley Jr’s suspension from parliament is no surprise. Here’s why by Michael Hugh Walker: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/ian-paisley-suspension-parliament-brexit-dup-theresa-may-sri-lanka-a8454316.html
Council votes to review Aung San Suu Kyi honour by Jo Davy: https://www.citymatters.london/council-votes-review-aung-san-suu-kyi-honour/
Paedophile group linked to Savile show guest by Tom Bateman: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30051756
Keith Harding a convicted paedophile who belonged to a group who campaigned for the age of consent to be reduced to four years old and was also awarded the Freedom of the City of London.