Buckley trips up over donations

Jonny Buckley.
Jonny Buckley.

Upper Bann DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley has found himself embroiled in a storm over a trip to Israel.

He was one of four DUP MLAs who failed to report donations that paid for the Middle East trip to the Electoral Commission.

According to the DUP the matter was down to “an administrative error”.

The Electoral Commission has confirmed that four MLAs – Jonathan Buckley, Gary Middleton, William Humphrey and Michelle McIlveen – had failed to disclose donations of £2,700 from NI Friends of Israel that paid for a four-day visit to the Middle Eastern country.

While the four MLAs did report the donations to the Assembly, they were also required to report them to the Electoral Commission within a period of 30 days.

Mr Buckley said: “It was a genuine administrative oversight we declared trip with the Northern Ireland Assembly and when notified by the Electoral Commission we informed them accordingly. There’s nothing untoward about it, and I hope people see it that way.”

A DUP spokesperson said ‘steps have now been taken to rectify’ the matter.

The news follows the suspension of DUP MP Ian Paisley from the House of Commons for 30 working days after it emerged he had failed to declare two family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government, and then lobbied UK ministers to prevent an international inquiry into Sri Lanka’s human rights violations. Mr Paisley was also suspended from the DUP “pending further investigation into his conduct”. He was also part of the DUP delegation to Israel, alongside another five of the DUP’s 10 MPs – Nigel Dodds, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Emma Little Pengelly, Gregory Campbell and Paul Girvan.

Details of donations from NI Friends of Israel worth £2,700 to each of the MPs were published on the Electoral Commission’s website.

Announcing the trip via a press statement issued to media on May 28, a DUP spokesperson said the visit would focus on “developing economic links in such sectors as cyber security”.

The delegation was also due to visit the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem and the grave of Chaim Herzog.

A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said: “We are aware of the recent trip by a DUP delegation to Israel in May 2018. The MPs who attended this trip have reported donations relating to this and they are available to view on our website.”

The spokesperson added: “A number of MLAs also attended this trip but have not reported any information relating to donations to the Electoral Commission. We have already written to these MLAs to clarify why no return has been made.”