Northern Ireland news

Jim Wells vows to tell 'nothing but the truth' in Nama trial

Former health minister Jim Wells (left) and Jamie Bryson arriving at court yesterday

Former DUP health minister Jim Wells has confirmed he will attend court as a witness for Jamie Bryson, saying he intends to tell "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

During a short hearing at Belfast Magistrate's Court yesterday Bryson, who is representing himself, told the court that the DUP MLA had agreed to attend as a witness.

Mr Wells was a senior member of the Stormont finance committee in 2015 when Bryson was controversially called to give evidence.

The 30-year-old loyalist blogger is being prosecuted alongside former Sinn Féin MLA Daithi McKay (37) and party member Thomas O'Hara, (35) for conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.

The charges relate to a Stormont committee investigating the sale of the Nama's Northern Ireland assets to a US investment fund.

In May 2018, during the collapse of the assembly, Mr Wells lost the party whip after he criticised the leadership in the media.

However, he was still designated as DUP for the purposes of the D'Hondt appointment of ministers and the selection of First Minister.

Without Mr Wells the DUP and Sinn Féin have an equal number of MLAs, 27 each.

Mr Wells says the New Decade New Approach deal altered standing orders to say the First Minister should be nominated by party strength at the time of the last election.

Speaking to the Irish News last night, Mr Wells said he had agreed to be a witness because he was told had he not he would be summonsed by the court.

"I didn't want to waste the court's time and expense, so I suppose you could say I am a reluctant voluntary witness.

"I would have expected to be called anyway, given I was heavily involved in the Finance committee in 2015 and attended every meeting in what was a very high profile case.

"And I can assure you I will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

On having the whip removed Mr Wells said he now sits outside the DUP group in the assembly but remains on good terms with the backbench MLAs.

"I have to say though I am enjoying the freedom, I feel like a fox in the chicken run".

A DUP Spokesperson said: "The DUP Whip was removed from Jim Wells and that remains the case. Mr Wells is a party member."

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