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DUP aide Robinson accused by Bell of blocking RHI cost controls steps away from issues linked to fiasco

By Staff Reporter

A DUP special adviser at the centre of the 'cash for ash' controversy is "stepping aside from any further involvement in RHI matters", the party has said.

John Robinson will no longer advise DUP Economy Minister Simon Hamilton on the botched energy scheme that brought Stormont to its knees in order to "avoid any accusation or further perception of conflict".

It comes after Mr Robinson was accused by former DUP minister Jonathan Bell under parliamentary privilege of blocking cost controls on RHI.

Mr Robinson has revealed that his father-in-law runs two green energy boilers under the scheme.

Mr Robinson, a former director of communications with the DUP, previously insisted the poultry farmer signed up to the scheme before he married his daughter, and stressed he had never advised anyone to join the botched State-subsidised initiative. And he had stressed that neither he nor his wife had any direct involvement with the business or RHI.

Last night the DUP said Mr Robinson's father-in-law "is neither a member of the party nor a donor to the party".

There is no suggestion Mr Robinson's father-in-law has done anything wrong.

In a statement, the party said Mr Hamilton was aware of Mr Robinson's father-in-law being a scheme recipient.

The DUP said: "Since neither John nor his wife had any role in the business nor received any financial benefit from it, no further action was felt necessary.

"No written declaration of interest was made to the department at the time as John felt there was no such conflict as he was not involved in any way in the application, the relevant business and received no benefit, and all this occurred before he was appointed in June 2016.

"John regrets this in that it has allowed a situation to develop where there is a perception of a conflict.

"To avoid any accusation or further perception of conflict, John is stepping aside from any further involvement in RHI matters."

The party said the Economy Minister had instructed his most senior civil servant to ensure that "going forward, all necessary mechanisms are in place to demonstrate that John is in no way involved in any discussions or briefings relating to RHI policy".

The statement continued: "John has fully supported the minister's position for maximum legal transparency around the scheme.

"Minister Hamilton and his special adviser have been fully focused on investigating alleged fraud and abuse of the RHI scheme, investigating why warning signs were not heeded, and introducing cost control measures.

"Minister Hamilton has been aided at all times in this by the advice and efforts of his special adviser.

"Like the minister, John Robinson fully supports the establishment of a thorough inquiry into all aspects of the RHI scheme.

"He will co-operate fully with it and he is confident that his integrity will be upheld in any such investigation."

On Monday suspended DUP MLA Mr Bell spoke under Assembly privilege to claim he was thwarted in his efforts to clamp down on the multi-million pound RHI overspend because two DUP special advisers "have such extensive interests in the poultry industry".

Mr Bell, a former DUP Economy Minister, named Mr Robinson and another DUP special adviser.

Both denied any wrongdoing whatsoever.

And the DUP branded Mr Bell's allegations as "outrageous, untrue and unfounded mud-slinging".

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