Belfast Telegraph

DUP 'delighted to replace me and has candidate lined up' says Jim Wells over spat with party

And more could come out, vows veteran politician

DUP MLA Jim Wells has continued his public spat with the DUP over claims the leadership pledged to reinstate him as health minister, saying the party would be "delighted" to replace him and he is aware a candidate has been lined up for his seat.

And the veteran politician said there could be more revelations coming from him. After three years of trying to resolve the issue internally with the party he was "at the end of his tether" explaining his decision to speak out.

Speaking to BBC TalkBack he said there was a "clear indication" from the party leadership at the time in 2015 that he was to return to the Executive table. He said the matter had been discussed internally for the past two years and Peter Robinson had at least one window of opportunity to do so.

"But nowhere did the party say there was no promise, that was the crucial issue," he claimed.

Peter Robinson, in an interview last week denied there was ever a specific promise made while he was leader to Mr Wells. The MLA said he felt compelled to release emails to the media on Monday.

He denied there was "copious ambiguity" from the party on his return to frontline government.

"They know what I am saying is true... they have had a golden opportunity to refute what I said and they have not done so."

The row erupted after the South Down MLA, in a no-holds-barred interview with the Belfast Telegraph last week, said he had reached an agreement with Mr Robinson to step down from his ministerial role in April 2015, claiming the former party leader agreed he would return “after the dust settled”.

The row has rumbled on since, drawing Peter Robinson into commenting on his first major interview after he retired from politics.

Mr Wells said it was not now a "healthy relationship" he had with the DUP but he said there had been plenty of messages of support and well-wishers from within the party.

"My difficulty is with nine people in the DUP, not the party."

He also described as "condescending" the party stating it had a "duty of care" to Mr Wells during the time his wife was ill in one of the emails.

"My wife's condition stabilised, I was in a position to return, I asked to return and was totally ignored," he said.

"I have not lost the plot, I am perfectly sane, I am very, very aggrieved that this plus the fact they refused to put out a press release welcoming the court case and so many other issues indicate I am no longer welcome as what so would call a dinosaur in the DUP."

He added: "If they could replace me in South Down I believe they would be delighted".

He said he was "aware" there was a replacement lined up for his seat, but he did not want to discuss that further.

"I have tried for three years to sort this out behind the scenes quietly and in private and on each occasion I have been rebuffed.

"People have been asking why I went from minister to nothing and after being vindicated by the courts why did I never return... is there a skeleton in the cupboard, have I done something wrong. The answer is I haven't I have just been totally ignored."

He rejected he was out to "humiliate" the DUP leadership and he still supported the party and its policy.

Mr Wells said he had no intention of stepping down or quitting the party. Asked if he would consider joining Jim Allister's TUV, he said: "I don't think so... I have no contact with Jim."

He told broadcaster William Crawley there could be a further "episode three" on its way over the revelations.

The DUP has been asked for a comment. Disciplinary proceedings have begun and it said it would not provide a running commentary on what were "internal matters".

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