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RHI inquiry: 'Sexual misbehaviour,' DUP infighting and 'the monster that had to be put to sleep' - Jonathan Bell's explosive first day of evidence

By Gareth Cross and Mark Edwards ·

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Former DUP Minister Jonathan Bell gives his evidence at the RHI Inquiry at Stormont today. Photo by Pacemaker.

Former Stormont Minister Jonathan Bell made a number of shocking revelations during his first day of evidence at the RHI inquiry on Thursday.

Mr Bell who was Enterprise Minister at the time the RHI scheme was closed, painted a picture of a party ruled by special advisers and of how he was the "victim of a massive smear campaign".

Mr Bell told the inquiry a submission on RHI had been kept from him for months and cost control measures designed to rein in the scheme's over expenditure had to be delayed for four weeks.

He rejected claims from his Spad Timothy Cairns that the submission was discussed with him on a number of occasions and said Mr Cairns "made up" a number of claims in his written evidence to the inquiry.

Mr Bell said that he was told by Mr Cairns that DUP Spad Timothy Johnston did not want the RHI issue "progressed" as he and his brother-in-law had interests in the poultry industry.

It was put to Mr Bell that Mr Cairns claimed in his evidence that Mr Bell was compiling information on DUP members private lives.

Mr Bell rejected this suggestion totally.

"It was Timothy Cairns who explained inappropriately in garish and lurid detail, the sexual misbehaviour of two DUP ministers," Mr Bell said.

He also told the inquiry how Mr Cairns told him about an encounter between Head of the Civil Service David Stirling and DUP Spad Dr Andrew Crawford.

Mr Stirling allegedly told Dr Crawford "'you kept this scheme open for the benefit of your family and you've done significant budgetary damage to Northern Ireland."

He also rejected as totally untrue a claim he attempted to break the finger of special adviser Timothy Cairns - which was made in his evidence to the inquiry.

That allegation is "untrue, completely without foundation and has no basis whatsoever in fact", said the former DETI minister.

"I have never tried to break anybody's finger and never would."

Claims that he threw a punch are also false, he says - that's something "I have never ever done."

He also claimed the then head of communications in the Executive Office David Gordon was briefing against him as a "monster who had to be put to sleep".

He also alleged that broadcaster David Blevins was briefing the DUP to discredit him using his Christian faith, a claim rejected by Mr Blevins' employer Sky News.

The DUP said it had no comment to make while the inquiry continued.

Mr Bell will be back before the RHI inquiry on Friday morning.

Here's how the day unfolded:

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Former DUP Minister Jonathan Bell gives his evidence at the RHI Inquiry at Stormont today. Photo by Pacemaker.
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Jonathan Bell - BBC
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A movie poster, originally for the film, Heat, starring Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino with the heads of Jonathan Bell and Arlene Foster superimposed by, The Ulster Fry, regarding the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme
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Arlene Foster and Jonathan Bell pictured together in 2015.
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Thursday 6th September 2018 - Jonathan Bell arrives at Stormont with his Solicitor Denis Moloney this morning for RHI Inquiry. Mr Bell will give evidence to the RHI public inquiry on Thursday.
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Thursday 6th September 2018 Picture by Press Eye Jonathan Bell arrives at Stormont with his Solicitor Denis Moloney this morning for RHI Inquiry. Mr Bell will give evidence to the RHI public inquiry on Thursday.
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Northern Ireland- 20th December 2013 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. DUP councillor Ruth Patterson not to be prosecuted over social media comments she made regarding a republican parade. Ruth Patterson(centre pictured leaving Laganside Courts in Belfast with party colleagues including Jonathan Bell(right)
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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. Inpresspics.com. 26.5.11
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Press Release image Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th May 2015Ê Bell: Tourism already a winner at Royal County Down Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell wishes Michael Hoey well ahead of his second round 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.
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10th May 2013 - Ulster vs Llanelli Scarlets, RaboDirect PRO12 Semi Final Playoff at Ravenhill Belfast. First Minister Peter Robinson along with Northern Ireland Executive Ministers Jonathan Bell, Arlene Foster and Edwin Poots pictured supporting Ulster at Ravenhill