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DUP's Hamilton apologises to botched energy scheme whistleblower


Defiant: Simon Hamilton

Defiant: Simon Hamilton

Defiant: Simon Hamilton

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has apologised to a whistleblower who claimed she warned Arlene Foster about a botched heating scheme that may now cost the taxpayer more than £400m.

On Thursday the whistleblower told The BBC's Nolan Show that it took only "five minutes of research" to find problems which she claims she flagged.

The Renewable Heat Incentive scheme aimed to cut the cost of green energy to encourage people off fossil fuels, but ended up landing ministers with a massive overspend as no cap was set on the number of claims.

That effectively enabled a business to burn unnecessary heat 24/7 just to make money. Overall, more than £1bn of public money will be paid by 2036 to Northern Ireland-based businesses that signed up to the scheme. Almost half of that will be covered by the Executive.

The whistleblower said it was clear that there was the potential for fraud in the scheme, and that she warned Mrs Foster, who was the then enterprise minister.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt has called for First Minister Arlene foster to consider her position and that she should offer a public apology.

Speaking on BBC Northern Ireland's The View, Mr Hamilton said Mrs Foster "absolutely should not resign".

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"I want to thank [her] for her contribution and to apologise to her for the fact that her complaint was not taken seriously by government.

"It was taken seriously, however, by Arlene Foster, who passed the information on to her officials, and that's absolutely the right thing.

"The communication from the whistleblower was not specific about what the alleged abuse of the scheme was and it was appropriately passed on by Arlene to her officials, who were tasked to investigate it.

"It was they who didn't take the complaint seriously."

The First Minister has said there was nothing more she could have done at the time when concerns were first raised.

Speaking from China where she is promoting Northern Ireland Mrs Foster said: "There really isn't anything more, with hindsight, that I could have done, given the advice that was given to me at the time."

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