A dramatic claim of how a former Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Minister twice fell asleep in a New York bar, forcing a waitress to insist he and his delegation leave, has been outlined to a public inquiry.
Timothy Cairns, former special advisor to Jonathan Bell when he was Northern Ireland enterprise minister, has claimed that during a departmental trip to the U.S. Bell consumed bottle of wine during the course of a DUP dinner.
The DUP delegation then moved to a New York pub where Bell, who was “clearly intoxicated” fell asleep, prompting a waitress to say if he did not wake up they would have to leave.
In his written witness evidence to the inquiry, published on Monday, Cairns said that after waking up Bell consumed a pint of Guinness, ordered another and fell asleep again. At this point they were asked to leave.
Cairns added in his written statement, “Mr. Bell was unsteady and had to be helped back to the hotel while he sang the Deep Blue Something hit single ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ at full volume.”
Cairns’ written witness statement was published a day before he was due to give oral evidence over two days to the inquiry.
The investigation is into the botched Renewable Heat Incentive green energy scheme which triggered the collapse of political power-sharing in Northern Ireland last year.
The project, which became known as the “cash for ash” scheme, was set up when DUP leader Arlene Foster was Northern Ireland’s enterprise minister in 2012. Costs spiraled out of control and a projected overspend of up to £490 million sterling led to the collapse of the Stormont power-sharing in January 2017 when Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister because Foster wouldn’t step aside as first minister while the cash for ash scandal was investigated.
Cairns also said in Monday’s published version of his written witness statement that Bell threatened to break his finger in a row in London over decision-making unconnected with the cash for ash affair.
“I said, ‘Well Jonathan if you want to be the man with big balls and just make the decision go right ahead, but this is an East Belfast matter and if I was you I would consult (former DUP leader) Peter Robinson at the very least.’”
Bell has already given oral evidence to the inquiry in which he denied threatening violence or threatening to break Cairns’ finger. Bell has also claimed there is a smear campaign against him because he went public in the botched cash for ash scheme.
Foster is due to give evidence to the inquiry in the New Year.