Jonathan Bell to stand as independent in Assembly election

Former DUP MLA Jonathan Bell has revealed he is to stand as an independent unionist in the Assembly election.

The representative for Strangford announced his decision to go it alone on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan show this morning.

Jonathan Bell

Jonathan Bell

Asked if he was sad to be leaving the DUP, Mr Bell said: “Of course I am. I can’t go into much because there is a legal action which a very competent lawyer Paul Tweed has expertly taken forward. But I didn’t leave the party; I was suspended from the party after giving that [BBC television] interview.

“I was suspended from the party after telling the truth.”

Mr Bell said people know he is a Democratic Unionist at heart but has been left with no choice.

“I didn’t leave the Democratic Unionist Party. I have never left. What happened is that I have been suspended, and I am giving the people of Strangford, who elected me...the opportunity to pass their judgment.

Former DUP minister Jonathan Bell arrives at the Electoral Office in Belfast to submit papers to stand as an independent in the forthcoming Assembly election. Photo: Matt Mackey / Press Eye

Former DUP minister Jonathan Bell arrives at the Electoral Office in Belfast to submit papers to stand as an independent in the forthcoming Assembly election. Photo: Matt Mackey / Press Eye

“We are going to get an investigation into ‘cash for ash’ and I look forward to placing my hand on the Bible and giving evidence to that judge, and for a forensic examination into that cash for ash scandal.”

Responding to being reminded that he was the minister at the time the RHI scheme spiralled out of control, Mr Bell said he had a “huge volume” of material not yet disclosed that would be available to the inquiry into the botched green energy scheme.

“I believe that the proper place for that to be disclosed, and the proper place for me to be held accountable for my actions – remember I want that more open and transparent, honest politics – is in front of a judge-led public enquiry.

“It really is a time for truth.”