DUP’s Jonathan Bell to sue party leader Arlene Foster

First Minister says many of her female colleagues have felt intimidated and bullied by Bell over the years

DUP MLA Jonathan Bell is to sue his party leader Arlene Foster over comments she made about him in a television interview in connection with the ‘cash for ash’ controversy that is engulfing Stormont

DUP MLA Jonathan Bell is to sue his party leader Arlene Foster over comments she made about him in a television interview in connection with the 'cash for ash' controversy that is engulfing Stormont.

The Strangford MLA has engaged the services of lawyer Paul Tweed, a defamation specialist, over allegations the First Minister made in a broadcast interview with the BBC on Thursday.

Ms Foster and Mr Bell have given different accounts of the sequence of events surrounding the controversial Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, which is expected to cost the taxpayer in the North in excess of £400m over the next two decades amid claims of widespread abuse of the green energy project.

During the interview with the BBC's Stephen Nolan, Mr Bell recalled a meeting with Ms Foster where he said she was "highly agitated and angry" and "shouted" at him.


In a separate interview Ms Foster alleged that Mr Bell has been “very aggressive” and “used his physical bulk to stand over me” during the exchange.

“I’ve many female colleagues who have felt intimidated and felt bullied by Jonathan over the years. I certainly felt that...” she added.

On Friday night it emerged that Mr Bell is to sue Ms Foster, though the elements of the interview he has taken exception to have not yet been revealed.

Mr Bell confirmed on Twitter he is to take legal action.

"No further comment will be made by me at this stage - all matters have been placed in the hands of my lawyer Paul Tweed Johnsons Law Belfast, " he said.

On Saturday Mr Tweed told The Irish Times his firm would not be issuing a statement on behalf of their client at this time.

A DUP spokesperson could not be contacted for comment.

Arlene Foster is to deliver a “full statement” to the Assembly on Monday regarding how she hopes to limit the financial damage the RHI scheme has caused at a special sitting of Northern politicians. The SDLP has also tabled a motion of no confidence.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams called for “a fully independent, transparent investigation” into the RHI scheme.

Speaking at a party leadership meeting in Derry on Saturday, Mr Adams told members their “objective must be to defend the integrity of political institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement”.

Mr Adams comments came after Stormont’s deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness called for Ms Foster Arlene Foster to “stand aside” from her role as First Minister while the scheme is being looked into. This suggestion has been rejected by the DUP.

“There can be no compromise from us,” Mr Adams said. “If there is corruption at the heart of the institutions then that needs rooted out.”

On Friday Mr Adams drew comparisons between the DUP and Fianna Fáil on Twitter.

“Another day. Another challenge. The DUP leadership & the Fianna Fáil leadership have more in common than u’d think,” he said.