Belfast Telegraph

DUP whistleblower claims party 'detests' BBC's Stephen Nolan 'with every fibre' for RHI coverage

By Mark Edwards

A DUP whistleblower has claimed the party “detests” Stephen Nolan and his BBC producers “with every fibre of its body” for the show's coverage of the RHI scandal.

The unnamed DUP politician, appearing on BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan show, revealed that the chief executive of the DUP, Timothy Johnson, writes to and fines DUP politicians if they say things to the media that have not been approved by the party’s press office.

The whistleblower described Mr Johnson as “God incarnate” and “judge, jury, executioner, implementor, enforcer and adviser” within the DUP.

“The party detests you and your producers with every fibre of its body,” the DUP politician told Nolan.

“I hope you are not upset to hear that because they believe you have exposed the RHI scheme to the public and if it wasn’t for the way you homed in on this in December 2016 and made it a major issue that we would not be in the position we are in today.

"So if you are under any illusion that the DUP don’t despise you, then I am afraid you are in for an awful shock.”

The RHI scandal, also known as Cash for Ash, exposed the public purse to an overspend of almost £500 million, after the then-Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment Arlene Foster failed to introduce proper cost controls.

This led to members of the RHI scheme making huge profits from the flawed green energy scheme.

The scandal led to the collapse of the Executive with the then Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigning in protest.

The whistleblower told Nolan DUP MLAs and MPs could be fined as much as £1,000 for straying off the party line.

The unnamed source said the party’s relationship with the Nolan Show would be better if it were not for his relentless RHI coverage.

The whistleblower said: “Had RHI not occurred, the relationship [with Nolan Show] would be totally different. There is an official boycott, I can tell you that now.”

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Former watchdog Sir Alistair Graham

Sir Alistair Graham, a former Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life Standards, said the practice of fining political representatives for expressing their opinions was “authoritarian and draconian”.

He said: “I am quite shocked really that a political party, who understandably wants to try and control the message that gets out to the public, is imposing fines on an elected representative whose public duty is to represent their constituents, not just follow the party line, I think is quite unacceptable.”

Sir Graham added he thought the practice “undermined democracy” and the effectiveness of DUP politicians.

A DUP spokesperson said: “The DUP operates under a constitution and a code of conduct for its members which was passed by the central executive committee of the party.

"The chief executive, on behalf of the party officers, writes to members on code of conduct matters as he is required to do from time to time.

"The party does not comment on its internal procedures. The party reserves the right to decide what programme to participate in and the best mix of platforms to ensure ongoing communication with the people of Northern Ireland. 

"Timothy Johnson has asked us to indicate that he will deal with issues pertaining to his RHI evidence when he appears before the inquiry.” 

A BBC Spokeswoman said: “The Nolan show provides an inclusive forum for audience-led debate about a range of issues affecting audiences. We welcome the involvement of all elected representatives across our output.”

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