Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Jonathan Bell registers as independent for Strangford in Northern Ireland Assembly election

'People have begged me to stand,' says out in the cold DUP man

Former DUP MLA Jonathan Bell has said he will be seeking election at March's Assembly election as an independent.

The Strangford representative said: "It is time for truth. Political life in Northern Ireland has been corrupted by spin and corrupted by deceit."

Mr Bell broke party ranks over the Renewable Heating Incentive scandal. He said that he tried to close the flawed scheme earlier but was prevented from doing so in an interview with the BBC's Stephen Nolan.

DUP special advisers denied any wrong doing and Arlene Foster has insisted she acted appropriately in setting up the scheme. She and her Economy Minister Simon Hamilton have pledged to cut the projected £490m overspend of the scheme to zero.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster Stephen Nolan show, Mr Bell said: "The cash for ash scandal has disgusted many, many people and that's why I believe it is time for the truth."

The former Enterprise Minister said he was still a member of the DUP, although he had been suspended by the party.

As the party would have to sign his election papers, he said his only option was to stand as an independent.

"I have been forced to do this - through no fault of my own," he said.

He said the only communication he had from the DUP was a "very short" email to say he had been suspended.

"I want the people to pass their verdict on me, on my record in government," he said.

"I have risked my political career for the people, I hope they put me first."

Asked who Strangford voters should transfer to in the March 2 vote, Mr Bell said he "trusted the people" to make the right decision.

"I will be voting for all the unionist candidates right the way down the list, including those in the Democratic Unionist Party," he said.

Mr Bell said that while he had a number of approaches about joining other parties, Mike Nesbitt had not offered him the chance to rejoin the UUP and nor would he have taken that offer had it been made.

"I am a democratic unionist, and people know me and where I stand," he said.

"I shone a light on the cash for ash scandal and as a result my party suspended me.

"Everywhere I have gone not a single person has told me I was wrong, in fact people have told me I was not wrong. People have come out of their houses to beg me to stand.

"Was I right to tell the truth, as Dr Paisley said 'should the Heavens fall', I think I was."

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