Belfast Telegraph

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

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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