Jonathan Bell suspended from DUP after comments about Arlene Foster

pacemaker belfast  15/12/2016 Screen Grab from Jonathan Bell's hard-hitting interview on the RHI scandal.

pacemaker belfast 15/12/2016 Screen Grab from Jonathan Bell's hard-hitting interview on the RHI scandal.

Senior Democratic Unionist Jonathan Bell has been suspended from the party.

It followed the former Stormont enterprise, trade and investment minister’s outspoken comments about leader Arlene Foster’s handling of a green energy incentive scheme which critics predict will overspend by £400 million.

DUP party officers met over the weekend and a spokesman confirmed the Strangford Assembly member’s suspension was unanimously agreed.

On Monday the Assembly will discuss a vote of no confidence in the First Minister.

Her Sinn Fein deputy Martin McGuinness has asked her to step aside to allow a probe into allegations surrounding the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

The row threatening the peace-building institutions has erupted over the controversial green energy scheme - set up by Mrs Foster - which paid out subsidies well in excess of the costs of buying renewable fuel.

Claims of widespread abuse include a farmer allegedly set to pocket around £1 million in the next 20 years for heating an empty shed.

The “cash for ash” scandal reached fever pitch when Mr Bell broke ranks to level a series of explosive claims against his leader Mrs Foster and party advisers.

In an extraordinary TV interview, a tearful Mr Bell said God told him to come clean as he claimed a “highly agitated and angry” Mrs Foster demanded he keep the RHI open for an extra fortnight despite its huge losses.