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DUP man faces 23 charges over claims for heating oil

By Noel McAdam

A senior DUP figure in Londonderry is to face 23 fraud charges over the alleged misuse of taxpayers' money at the party headquarters in the city.

The allegations involve expenses claims over a five-year period for heating oil.

The accused, Bill Irwin, is the brother-in-law of former Assembly Speaker William Hay, who is now in the House of Lords.

It was in the former Foyle MLA Lord Hay's constituency office at Ebrington Terrace in the Waterside area of the city where the alleged offences took place.

Mr Irwin (55), is also a former councillor in Derry.

The 23 separate charges are in relation to a large number of expenses claims to the Northern Ireland Assembly between 2009 and 2014 to pay for oil at the Ebrington Terrace office.

First elected to Derry City Council in 1993, Mr Irwin served as a DUP councillor for four years before losing his seat in the 1997 local government elections.

Mr Irwin, who is from Duncastle Road in Newbuildings, is due to appear at Derry Magistrates Court on Monday, February 22, in relation to the fraud charges.

In September 2014, Lord Hay revealed that he had called in police and alerted Assembly authorities after discovering irregularities.

He said at the time: "This followed my own investigation after an irregular trend in payments from my Office Cost Expenditure, which I had not previously noticed, had been brought to my attention."

A BBC Spotlight programme examining expenses claims made by Assembly members disclosed that in the year 2012/13, £4,355 was claimed in Lord Hay's name for heating oil - which had risen from £265 over the previous 10 years.

Lord Hay stated that his conscience was clear over the matter.

The long-standing DUP figure had been receiving medical treatment since suffering heart problems during 2014, and suspended a member of his staff at the time the allegations surfaced.

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