Belfast Telegraph

Jonathan Bell secretly recorded meetings with Peter Robinson and BBC's Stephen Nolan


Jonathan Bell giving evidence
Jonathan Bell giving evidence

By Staff Reporter

Jonathan Bell, the former Stormont Minister on whose watch the runaway Renewable Heat Incentive scheme had to be closed down, secretly recorded a meeting with former First Minister Peter Robinson.

The revelation came as the Public Inquiry into the 'cash for ash' financial scandal published thousands of pages of evidence about the botched renewable energy scheme on its website last night.

Mr Bell's latest written evidence to a public inquiry probing the affair said he also recorded a conversation between himself and BBC NI presenter Stephen Nolan, whose bombshell interview with the politician thrust the issue into the spotlight.

Last night, Nolan said he had had a "sixth sense" that he was being recorded at the time.

The inquiry was already aware that Mr Bell had made a clandestine recording of Dr Andrew McCormick, the senior civil servant in Bell's Department at the time the scheme was running.

In a statement made public last night, Mr Bell told the inquiry team: "I made two further recordings where the RHI scheme was mentioned at meetings as well as discussing other matters.

"One such recording was between myself and former First Minister Peter Robinson.

"This was in connection with a meeting I had with Mr Robinson when discussing a letter I was drafting in which I was setting out several complaints I had that were then forwarded to the First Minster Arlene Foster in or around March 2015."

As a result of this letter, Mr Bell says he later met Nigel Dodds MP and Gregory Campbell MP - and that meeting was also recorded.

The former Enterprise Minister also said the recordings - and others he had made which the RHI Inquiry is already aware of - were sent to the BBC's Stephen Nolan.

Mr Bell added: "The recordings not relevant to what I had said on the Nolan Show were deleted by me, including the recordings of the meetings with Peter Robinson and with Nigel Dodds and Gregory Campbell as well as the other recordings as they were of a private and personal nature."

Mr Bell also said he does not know whether the BBC has kept copies.

Mr Bell has previously admitted recording a sensitive private conversation with his permanent secretary in the civil service, Dr Andrew McCormick.

The former Strangford MLA also admitted he had made a secret recording of a meeting he had with the BBC presenter.

Last night, Nolan tweeted: "So now it's public.

"It is confirmed by Jonathan Bell that he also secretly recorded me when asking me to investigate RHI. I had a sixth sense of this at the time."

The statements published last night enable individuals involved in the RHI scheme to comment on claims made during the course of the inquiry, and give the inquiry team the chance to ask for explanations of apparent conflicts or gaps in evidence that have emerged as the inquiry proceedings have continued.

Mr Bell was also asked about the use of private emails, including Hotmail accounts, being used for official business.

Mr Bell said he has no recollection of telling civil servants to send official documents to his personal email account, although he says it did happen occasionally.

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