'Bizarre, rambling, full of grievances'... Paisley recalls late night chat with 'Walter Mitty' Bell
DUP MP Ian Paisley has branded Jonathan Bell "Walter Mitty in the flesh" over claims the former Stormont minister made just days before going public on the RHI scandal.
The North Antrim MP’s remarks appear in new written evidence to the public inquiry into the failed green energy scheme.
Mr Paisley recalled visiting Mr Bell at his home in early December 2016, just days before the latter’s bombshell interview with the BBC’s Stephen Nolan.
Mr Paisley said his colleague never discussed with him “at any time that he planned to appear on the Nolan Show”.
In his statement, the MP said that Mr Bell was “quite troubled and concerned about his future because of the RHI scheme” and it appeared that he “wanted a shoulder to cry on”.
“The discussion from memory was rambling and long, it was over a late night cup of tea; I vaguely recall one of his children being there for part of the discussion, so the conversation was quite casual,” Mr Paisley said.
“Frankly, I listened out of interest and at times amusement as he outpoured his incredible view of his place in government.”
He said Mr Bell told him he had “a team of the greatest legal minds in Britain working on the case for him” and had “recordings and documents” that proved his claims, which in Mr Paisley’s view was suggesting that he was “taking legal action, not media action”.
Mr Paisley added: “He reminisced heavily about my father and about a verse of scripture that he appeared to feel justified in the ‘battle’ he was in. It was a long and bizarre and rambling conversation. He spent time slagging off Nigel Dodds, Gregory Campbell, Maurice Morrow and most other people in the DUP, leaving me to think if I wasn’t there he would be slagging me off to whoever cared to listen.”
His witness statement said Mr Bell also had “a number of grievances which appeared equally bizarre” against DUP special advisers Timothy Johnston, John Robinson, Andrew Crawford and Timothy Cairns.
Mr Paisley said his party colleague claimed that these advisers “all had their hand in the RHI scandal and that some were making vast amounts of money out of it and that he had a map that proved where all of the schemes had opened up during the critical period, all of which happened to be in the back yard area of Timothy Johnston and John Robinson”.
Mr Paisley described the scenario as “quite sad” but said the two, who have known each other since university days, “parted on good terms”.
He recalled: “I was aware I had just met Walter Mitty in the flesh and I believe Jonathan Bell believed he had met someone who would support his assertions. Only one of us was correct.”
In September Mr Paisley was suspended from Parliament for failing to declare two holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government and then lobbying on its behalf.