Frankenstein email an attempt at humour, says ex-press secretary

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A former press secretary for the Northern Ireland Executive has denied a claim he called an ex-minister a “monster who had to be put to sleep”.

Ex-Stormont enterprise minister Jonathan Bell made the claim to a public inquiry into a botched green energy scheme earlier this month.

David Gordon has now given a statement to the RHI inquiry insisting his words were misinterpreted.

“Mr Bell’s allegation is based on a misinterpretation of an email sent by me on 18/12/16 to a special adviser,” Mr Gordon said in his statement to the inquiry, which was published on its website on Monday afternoon.

“It contained a Frankenstein metaphor/joke in connection with a possible public statement by former first minister Peter Robinson, the man who had appointed Mr Bell to ministerial office.

“Having asked if Mr Robinson was going to comment on Mr Bell’s claims, I added: ‘Isn’t it time Frankenstein put the monster he created to sleep?’

“Clearly, an attempt at humour in a private email does not remotely constitute evidence of briefing against Mr Bell, let alone a conspiracy.

“Metaphors are not meant to be taken literally. I was not suggesting that Mr Robinson had fathered Mr Bell or created him in a lab.

“Nor was I proposing that the former first minister or anyone else should actually put him to sleep. Similarly, I was not claiming or briefing that Mr Bell was actually a monster.

“A media briefing along the lines imagined by Mr Bell would frankly have been ridiculous. I cannot imagine a journalist taking any such ‘monster’ suggestion remotely seriously. It would have been met with derision, and rightly so.”

Mr Gordon also responded to claims made at the inquiry by former DUP special adviser Andrew Crawford that he had been involved in media briefing against him.

Dr Crawford claimed Mr Gordon was “very much involved” in media briefing to enable the DUP to blame him for delays in the introduction of cost controls to the RHI scheme.

“If there was a media briefing operation to place blame on Dr Crawford, I had no knowledge of it or involvement in it,” Mr Gordon said in his statement.

The RHI inquiry is probing how costs spiralled in a scheme to encourage the use of eco-friendly heat systems over fossil fuels.

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