Johnathan Bell suspended from the DUP

In an interview with the BBC, he accused DUP advisers of delaying plans to close down the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme in Northern Ireland

Johnathan Bell suspended from the DUP

File photo of Johnathan Bell, left. | Image: Niall Carson PA Archive/PA Images

Johnathan Bell has been suspended from the Democratic following accusations he made concerning the controversial 'ash for cash' scheme.

Mr Bell, a former Northern Ireland enterprise minister, accused party advisers of delaying plans to close down the controversial Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme in Northern Ireland in an interview with the BBC last week.

He claims Northern Ireland’s First Minister DUP leader Arlene Foster ordered the scheme be kept open despite a Treasury warning.

The DUP denies the accusation.

The 'cash for ash' was designed to incentivise businesses to to replace old heat sources with new eco-friendly alternatives, such as wood pellet boilers. However, the scheme ended up paying applicants more than the purchase price of the fuel.

There was no cap on the subsidy payments, so essentially the more heat you generated, the more public money you were paid.

For every £1 of fuel bought by businesses, they got paid around £1.60 through the scheme.

Responding to calls for her resignation, the DUP said: "The First Minister will not be stepping aside, but instead is focused on ensuring the full facts about this issue emerge and proposals are brought forward which can make a significant reduction in the future financial burden the Executive would face.

"The First Minister does not take her instructions from Sinn Fein, but from the electorate.”

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness called on the First Minister to 'step aside' during the investigation.

In a statement today, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he had spoken to Ms Foster by phone, and expressed "serious concern that the credibility of the political institutions is being undermined by the serious and ongoing allegations surrounding the design, operation, abuse and ending" of the RHI.

He explained: “This scheme has directly impacted on the public purse. Taxpayers’ money wasted in this scheme, needs to be retrieved. It is my belief the only way to establish the truth, and rebuild the reputation of the institutions, is to urgently establish a fully independent investigation into this matter.

“In addition, I also said that, in the public interest, she should stand aside from the role as First Minister while that investigation is underway and at least until an initial assessment had been concluded into the veracity of all the allegations."

He added: “That is what I would do if I was in this situation. I asked the First Minister to take the time and consider this suggestion carefully."

The Northern Assembly has been recalled from Christmas recess to discuss the scheme, and will meet tomorrow.