Bell sends legal letters to DUP’s Foster and Stalford

Arlene Foster and Jonathan Bell in happier times.
Arlene Foster and Jonathan Bell in happier times.

Former DUP minister Jonathan Bell has begun the process of taking legal action against two fellow DUP MLAs, his lawyer has confirmed.

The Strangford MLA was suspended from the DUP a month ago after he spoke out in a televised interview with Stephen Nolan where he made allegations about the party and the closure of the RHI scheme.

In an televised interview broadcast immediately after Mr Bell’s comments, DUP leader Arlene Foster made a series of allegations about her party colleague.

There was speculation at the time that Mr Bell may be considering legal action after he directed journalistic questions to the libel lawyer Paul Tweed.

Now it has been confirmed that Mr Bell has taken the first step towards launching a legal action – although it does not appear that he has as yet issued a writ.

When asked about the situation, Mr Tweed said that he was not in a position to make any comment at this stage other than to “confirm that it is correct that Arlene Foster and Christopher Stalford have been put on notice in relation to comments made regarding my client”.

A DUP spokesman confirmed that Mrs Foster and Mr Stalford and received the legal letters and would be “responding through their own legal representatives”.

It is understood that Mr Stalford, the DUP MLA for South Belfast, is facing the legal threat over comments which he made in an interview with RTE subsequent to the interviews which Mr Bell and Mrs Foster gave to the BBC and which were broadcast on 15 December.

Meanwhile, Mr Bell is understood to be on the list of MLAs who have asked to speak in Monday’s Assembly debate on emergency legislation to rein in RHI costs.

Last week Mr Bell used the cloak of Assembly privilege – meaning that he cannot be sued for what he says in the chamber – to make allegations about DUP spads, allegations which they firmly rejected.