Belfast Telegraph

RHI inquiry: DUP special adviser Cairns threatened to film Jonathan Bell while drunk

By Mark Edwards

A DUP special adviser threatened to film Jonathan Bell "drunk and talking s***" and show it to a senior figure in the party, the RHI inquiry has heard.

Timothy Johnston, who is now chief executive of the DUP, appeared again before the inquiry on Thursday.

During the hearing text messages sent by former special adviser Timothy Cairns who worked under then DETI minister Jonathan Bell were read into evidence.

In the messages, Mr Cairns told Emma Little-Pengelly, who was then a DUP special adviser, that Mr Bell had come out "very badly" of the RHI scandal and that he was reporting all his "transgressions" to Mr Johnston and party leader Arlene Foster.

He said: "My goal now is he has one year max and done. If I get a chance I am going to film him drunk and talking s**t and show it to TJ [Timothy Johnston]."

Mr Johnston told the RHI inquiry on Thursday that he did not realise at the time the level of dysfunction in the relationship between Mr Bell and Mr Cairns in the summer of 2015.

Mr Johnston also denied that DUP special adviser Andrew Crawford was "sacrificed" by the DUP in order to conceal his role in delaying cost controls.

He said: "People around me genuinely saw how hurt I was with the allegations that were being made. I didn't think there was any basis in fact to the allegations."

He added: "Dr Crawford resigned into 2017. There were probably some in the system that took the view it is very likely there were conversations involving Andrew. At no point did I have any sense there was a party view, it certainly wasn't a first minister view, that Dr Crawford should be sacrificed to deflect attention from me."

Mr Johnston also told the inquiry that "lessons had to be learned" from the RHI scandal.

He said: "We all have to learn lessons out of this. How in the longer term do we insure we are never back in this place again if we can get devolution functioning. That includes the issue around Spads, the issue or project management, the issue of how we work in a way that is open but effective."

He added: "There were a number of personal allegations made by Mr Bell in his interview about me and my interest in the poultry sector and there were things said in the chamber here about relatives of mine that were all factually inaccurate and I want to put that on the record."

Read how Timothy Johnston's evidence unfolded here:

 

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