Belfast Telegraph

We will take the witness stand in defence of Arlene: DUP officials

By Staff Reporter

The DUP moved quickly over the weekend to close ranks against former Minister Jonathan Bell as the "cash for ash" storm continued to rage.

Party officers suspended the Strangford MLA, and four senior party figures said they were prepared to testify against Mr Bell in court if he sued First Minister Arlene Foster for defamation.

It was revealed that the four senior party members - three elected members and one official - had drafted a statement in which they accuse Mr Bell (46) of using threatening and controlling behaviour toward them.

On Friday, it was learned that Mr Bell had instructed top libel lawyer Paul Tweed to begin defamation proceedings against the First Minister over remarks she'd made in a BBC interview.

Mrs Foster was reacting to Mr Bell's bombshell claims about her role in the disastrous Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme which looks set to cost Northern Ireland's public purse more than £400m.

The four DUP figures are not being named for legal reasons. But they claimed: "When we heard Jonathan's allegations that Arlene had been aggressive towards him we found it hard to believe.

"That is not in Arlene's nature, but exactly the way he would behave.

"The man has used his physical stature to intimidate us in an aggressive, threatening and controlling manner."

They added: "His threats to sue over the bullying claims are ironic .

"We will welcome a courtroom opportunity to describe his behaviour and ensure the public see there is a very different side to Jonathan Bell."

It was also revealed that Ken Cleland, a former director of the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation, was one of the men who accompanied Mr Bell to the BBC studios where he gave his shock interview to Stephen Nolan last week.

Mr Cleland was one of two men seen on camera praying with the former Executive Minister before the interview began.

The other man was Free Methodist minister Fergus Bell, Jonathan's father.

He was heard to say: "We ask that the power of the Holy Spirit will come upon Jonathan and those who interview him, that You will direct him in all that they think and say and at the end of the day all that will have been done in the glory of Christ. Father hear our prayer for Christ's sake. Amen."

Official DUP sources also denied weekend speculation that Mr Bell - a former social worker - had been promised a CBE if he admitted responsibility for the bungled RHI scheme.

Mr Bell did receive support from former DUP councillor Ruth Patterson, who was expelled from the party last year. She described Mr Bell as "a man of integrity and principle."

Belfast Telegraph


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