DUP: SPAD did not meet RHI whistleblower

MIke Nesbitt claims the first minister should consider her position
MIke Nesbitt claims the first minister should consider her position

The DUP has responded to revelations that the brother of a DUP special adviser who helped Arlene Foster oversee the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is among those benefiting from the scheme.

Andrew Crawford, from Beragh in Co Tyrone, was first minister Mrs Foster’s ‘spad’ at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment when the RHI was introduced.

It emerged this weekend that Mr Crawford’s brother is among those benefitting from the scheme.

But in a statement on Sunday, the DUP said Mr Crawford never met the whistleblower who initially raised concerns over the scheme that is set to cost taxpayers here £400m.

Mr Crawford now works alongside DUP agriculture minister Michelle McIlveen.

A DUP spokesman said: “Dr Andrew Crawford was special advisor in the then Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment during the period 2011 to May 2015. Dr Crawford did not meet the whistleblower nor has he any record of these issues having been raised with him at that time.”

In a statement on Sunday, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt called on Mrs Foster and Mr Crawford to consider their positions.

“Given the extraordinary statement from the DUP that Arlene Foster`s Special Adviser in DETI at key points in the establishment of the disastrous RHI scheme does not have any record of issues being raised with him, it begs the question, why did he not know? Arlene Foster had been contacted by the whistle blower but she didn`t think to tell her own Special Adviser? It`s an absolutely incredible admission from Andrew Crawford and raises further questions for Arlene Foster.

“As a highly paid servant of the public Dr Crawford should have interrogated the policy, identified the flaw and moved to have it corrected. He clearly failed in his duty. He equally clearly supported his Minister in the disastrous sequence of policy decisions that resulted in renewable heat being devolved from Westminster, in the GB model not being adopted and in the local scheme being approved.

“As this was all policy, not ‘jots’ and ‘tittles’ as Arlene Foster tries to claim, we know where the buck, or the £400m, stops. The question now is, was the department out of control? And on that basis, both the Minister responsible, Arlene Foster, and the SPAD should consider their positions.”