Belfast Telegraph

BBC has fallen for Jonathan Bell's spin: DUP rejects aides 'cleansed' RHI documents claim

The DUP has emphatically rejected claims made by its own MLA Jonathan Bell that its advisers acted inappropriately over the Renewable Heating Incentive.

Jonathan Bell broke party ranks for an incredible attack on his party, its staff and its leader, the First Minster Arlene Foster.

More: First Minister Arlene Foster blocked attempts to shut down scheme that could cost taxpayer £400m, claims DUP's Jonathan Bell

During the wide-ranging interview with Stephen Nolan, the former Enterprise Minister said DUP special advisors attempted to "cleanse" public records of mention of Mrs Foster and her then Department of Finance.

His party described the claims as a "ham-fisted diversionary tactic" for the decision to delay the closure of the scheme.

In a statement, the DUP said: "Claims of document cleansing by OFMDFM aides are demonstrably untrue.

"This document was not altered by, on behalf of, or for the benefit of OFMDFM or its aides.

More: Listen: First Minister Arlene Foster responds to Jonathan Bell RHI scandal allegations

"Jonathan Bell's former special advisor has confirmed to the BBC that he redrafted one submission. This removed reference to the fact that OFMDFM intervened to bring forward RHI closure date from March to February 2016. There is a clear paper trail to prove this.

"This is ham-fisted diversionary tactic by Mr Bell to distract from fact he as minister made the crucial and catastrophic decision to delay RHI cost savings in autumn/winter of 2015.

"It is a matter of regret that BBC has fallen for his spin."

In a statement, the BBC said: "The BBC broadcast claims from a former minister about documents in relation to the RHI controversy as well as a contrasting account from the First Minister.

"All those referred to in the broadcast were afforded rights of reply, which were aired. This is a matter of high public interest and the BBC believes it was entirely proper to bring this to our audience.”

More: Jonathan Bell's journey to high office laced with ups and downs

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