A former DUP special adviser has said that a significant email which was only handed to the RHI Inquiry more than a year after it was requested was under the control of the party.
Tim Cairns said that the email – which undermined the story of the DUP’s powerful chief executive, Timothy Johnston, who has denied that he had any knowledge of RHI in the period where cost controls were being delayed – was obtained by him without any assistance from the DUP.
It is the first explanation for why Mr Cairns handed the email to the inquiry the night before Mr Johnston was to give evidence in October.
It is not yet clear whether the DUP has been asked why it did not hand over the email.
Mr Cairns said in a written statement that the mail had not been under his custody or control: “These emails were stored on the server owned and controlled by the DUP and/or its agents.”
Mr Cairns said that his working association with the DUP ended on 5 May 2016 and “any prospect of a future working relationship with the DUP ended on receipt of a letter from Michelle McIlveen on 1 June 2016...as with normal business practice, I assumed that my dup.org.uk email address would be archived by the DUP. I deleted the account from my phone in and around the summer of 2016.”
Mr Cairns said that when the inquiry began he was “concerned” at not having access to his DUP email account and had attempted to access it but was unable to do so because, he believed, “the DUP must have archived the account or changed the password when the inquiry process commenced”.
Mr Cairns said that he had read DUP chairman Lord Morrow’s statement to the inquiry which said that DUP staff had searched party accounts, leading him to wrongly assume “that my account, which belonged to the party, had been searched”.
He said that in October 2018 his solicitor advised him to attempt to access his old email account and at that point he recalled that there had been “default email passwords” and by using those he “gained access to the account”.