Belfast Telegraph

RHI inquiry: DUP special adviser 'regrets' not declaring his father-in-law was recepient of scheme earlier

John Robinson said: "At no time was my judgement conflicted".

John Robinson
John Robinson
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

A former DUP special adviser has told the RHI inquiry he regrets not declaring that his father-in-law was a recipient of the scheme earlier in his employment with the party.

John Robinson is married to the daughter of Hugh Rutledge, a director in Highgate Poultry Ltd who was a recipient of the RHI scheme.

In a witness statement published ahead of his appearance before the inquiry on Wednesday, Mr Robinson said: "My father-in-law was a recipient of the scheme. I regret not seeking an opportunity to declare this matter earlier in my employment.

"I accept that some may have perceived this as a conflict of interest with my work as a Special Adviser in the DfE [Department for Economy].

"Those who worked alongside me will testify that I always favored more rigorous inspections, publishing of recipients’ names and action to curb the costs of the scheme.

"I have no financial interest in my father-in-law’s business and at no time was my judgement conflicted. "

Mr Robinson  said he did not recall any conversation with his father-in-law about the RHI scheme before he became a special adviser in June 2016.

He added: "Beyond this, while I know people who have applied to the scheme, I have not had contact with them about their applications. "

Mr Rutledge, in evidence published by the inquiry, said: "I had no contact with John Robinson about applying to the RHI scheme.

"Any discussion about the scheme with John Robinson would have been as a result of news coverage about the RHI scheme. This would have been in late 2016 and early 2017."

Another DUP special adviser Stephen Brimstone, in evidence published by the inquiry on Tuesday, said he installed a biomass boiler and successfully applied to the scheme in August 2015.

Stephen Brimstone

He also confirmed his brother's business and wife's parents' business were recipients of the scheme. His brother's business applied in January 2016 and his wife's parents' business in August 2015.

He said: "I made First Minister Arlene Foster aware (verbal conversation) that I had installed a biomass boiler and had applied to the scheme – I believe this would have been in or around Jan 2016.

"As an adviser to the First Minister I felt I should make her aware that I had applied to the Scheme in August 2015. This was only for information purposes."

Mr Brimstone said at no point did he influence or encourage any person to delay, soften or reduce the introduction of cost controls into the scheme.

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