RHI scandal: Allister ‘tried to rein in Spads’

DUP boycotted a debate on children with autism in October 2015 (left) but attended another debate to stop a Spads Bill (right)
DUP boycotted a debate on children with autism in October 2015 (left) but attended another debate to stop a Spads Bill (right)

With several DUP Spads being thrown into the spotlight during the RHI scandal, one politician has sent out a reminder that he tried to put a tighter leash on special advisors back in 2015.

At the height of the RHI spike in October 2015, TUV leader Jim Allister proposed a bill to reduce the number of Spads at Stormont, restrict their salaries and apply disciplinary procedures to them.

While Mr Allister’s Spads Bill was voted on at the height of the uptake on the RHI scheme, it was not proposed in reaction to the scheme which has recently become a public outrage.

The bill was debated at a time when the DUP was boycotting certain debates; however, they attended the Spads debate and voted down Mr Allister’s bill.

The TUV man has revisited the bill to point the finger at the DUP and Sinn Fein for allowing Spads to escape accountability.

He said: “During the consultation on the bill and in the debate on October 13 I reminded people that the Red Sky affair resulted in an independent fact-finding investigation by the Department of Finance and Personnel which recommended that the minister’s special advisor should be subject to a disciplinary investigation. However, Nelson McCausland was able to intervene and abort any such course of action.

“The bill was debated at the height of the RHI spike and while the DUP were boycotting debates on issues like children with autism and cancer. Yet they turned up to the chamber to speak against my proposals and joined Sinn Fein in voting down a bill designed to hold Spads to account and cut their cost to the public.”

He added: “The spotlight in the cash for ash scandal has shifted to the role of DUP Spads. We now know that not only does former special advisor Stephen Brimstone benefit from the scheme but the brother of Arlene Foster’s former Spad (Andrew Crawford) is a successful applicant and the father-in-law of John Robinson has two boilers.

“Mr Robinson failed to declare this – even though he is a Spad in the department which claims to be clearing this mess up.

“Recent evidence from Dr Andrew McCormick suggested that Mrs Foster’s Spad was the key figure in exerting pressure to keep the scheme open thus allowing the spike to happen. Additionally, Jonathan Bell has alleged that a fourth DUP Spad, Timothy Johnstone, played a role.”

While the four DUP Spads have been put into the spotlight during the RHI scandal there has been no suggestion that any of them have acted improperly.