Belfast Telegraph

RHI inquiry: Foster ordered me to keep scheme open says Bell - 'I knew I'd have to sacrifice my political career'

Arlene Foster and Jonathan Bell pictured together in 2015.
Arlene Foster and Jonathan Bell pictured together in 2015.
Former DUP MLA and Minister Jonathan Bell gives his second day of evidence at the RHI Enquiry at Stormont
Jonathan Bell at the RHI inquiry yesterday
Solicitor Denis Moloney and former DUP minister Jonathan Bell
Jonathan Bell on TV in 2016
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 23rd November 2011 Inter Faith Event at Stormont hosted by Liam Clarke. Margaret McNulty, Edwin Graham and Jonathan Bell Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Tuesday 21st February 2012 - Young Fermanagh Gaelic footballer Mark McGovern, a member of the Belcoo Club, suffered a serious brain injury while playing in San Francisco last June. Mark, who is making remarkable progress from his injury, was a guest of the First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont today. Martin McGuinness presented him with an Ulster jersey which he personally signed. Mark is pictured with Junior Minister Jonathan Bell and First Minister Peter Robinson. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Martina Anderson MLA and Jonathan Bell MLA, OFMDFM Junior MInisters pictured during a visit to the Brandywell Stadium as part of a tour of the TRIAX area in Derry-Londonderry. Picture Martin McKeown. 26.5.11
Junior Minister Jonathan Bell, who attended the Northern Ireland International Air-show at Portrush on Saturday, gets his future pilot wings when he took the controls in the pilots seat of a mock-up of a RAF Typhoon fighter. Picture. Maurice Thompson.
Press Release image Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2015Ê Bell: Tourism already a winner at Royal County Down Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell is pictured with James Finnegan, European Tour and Kathryn Thomson, Tourism NI, at The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation. Over 90,000 spectators are expected to flock to Royal County Down to see some of the best golfers in the world battle the elements in a bid to take home the trophy on Sunday. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Northern Ireland- 23rd February 2013 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Memorial parade and service for UDR soldiers killed 25 years ago while on duty in Belfast City Centre. Fred Starrett and James Cummings were manning a security gate on Royal Avenue when an IRA bomb exploded. Both soldiers were members of the Orange Order who commemorate the killings every year. The Lord Mayor of Belfast Gavin Robinson(left) and the DUP's Jonathan Bell pictured during the memorial service at place of the explosion.
Junior Minister Jonathan Bell tells his joke as compare Eamonn Mallie wipes away thetears of laughter at this years Voice Box Competition held at the Senate Chambre in Parliament Buildings. Picture by Brian Morrison
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd June 2014 - First Minister Peter Robinson and Junior Minister Jonathan Bell pictured with Dr Raied Al-Wazzan and Dr Saleem Tareen during his visit to the Belfast Islamic Centre in Wellington Park, south Belfast this evening. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

By Gareth Cross and Mark Edwards

Former Stormont minister Jonathan Bell has claimed then First Minister Arlene Foster ordered him to keep the RHI scheme open for an extra two weeks against his wishes.

Mr Bell made the claim during his second day of evidence to the RHI inquiry at Stormont.

The former DETI Minister said that during a meeting in February 2016 DUP leader Foster told him that the scheme would have to be kept open for an extra two weeks.

He said that the meeting was "fairly heated" and that Mrs Foster was agitated and angry.

"She said 'I am the first Minister, I'm ordering you, you are reversing your decision'," Mr Bell said.

Mr Bell said Mrs Foster said she wanted the scheme kept open to allow industry and other stakeholders to be consulted.

The ex-MLA was asked a number of questions after he admitted taping conversations with former DETI Permanent Secretary Dr Andrew McCormick.

He said that he had only taped the conversations because he wasn't given access to paperwork he requested from his time as Minister.

Mr Bell said that he had major concerns surrounding the behaviour of Spads and he wished to have proof of this.

In an emotional close to his evidence Mr Bell apologised in advance for any wrongdoing and outlined his motivations for going public on the RHI scandal.

"My only motivation was those hundreds of millions of pounds, to get them back into our health and education systems and everything else," he said.

"I knew I'd have to sacrifice my political career.

Here's how the day unfolded:

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