Former DUP Spad Stephen Brimstone says he got RHI for shed due to getting headaches

Stephen Brimstone at the RHI Inquiry
Stephen Brimstone at the RHI Inquiry
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Stephen Brimstone told the inquiry that he decided to install an RHI boiler in his shed because he was getting headaches from the fumes given off by a portable oil heater he used in the building when the weather was cold.

Barrister Joseph Aiken asked him how often the shed would have been heated prior to being admitted to the RHI scheme.

Mr Aiken said: “Call a spade a spade – a lot of people go into their garage or shed and there’s no heating in it per se; they’re not there for a long time, they’re back out of it and they don’t go and get any heating to turn often would you have been utilising heat in the shed?”

Mr Brimstone said he did so in the winter time, “probably a number of nights per week” and he used a portable heater to do so.

Sir Patrick Coghlin asked him why he would change from using a portable heater for occasional use to installing a large permanent biomass boiler.

The former Spad said: “The fumes of the portable heater – if it was on any length of time and the door was closed you’d a headache; I know I’ve a bigger headache now.”

Sir Patrick said: “You’d put up with those for seven years.”
Mr Brimstone said: “I’d no alternative, chair”.

Sir Patrick said: “So you didn’t bother to get a non-fume-producing portable heater for seven years?”

Mr Brimstoner said: “No. No, I didn’t.”

Dame Una O’Brien asked: “Did you have an electricity supply?”

Mr Brimstone said that he had and that he had used an electric heater if he was working at his workbench.

Sir Patrick said drily: “Not too many fumes from it, was there?”

Mr Brimstone said: “No, there was none.”

Later, Mr Brimstone was asked whether if the RHI scheme had not been available he would have replaced his domestic biomass boiler with another biomass boiler.

Mr Brimstone said: “No.”

Later, Mr Aiken asked him: “Did it not seem rather contrived to you? You’ve been using biomass to heat your house. You’ve transient heat need in your shed...and you used heating in it occasionally...but you end up with a scenario where even though you’ve a more limited heat need in your shed and a full heat need for your house you can get on the non-domestic scheme through the shed and as a result have the greater benefit for your house...did it not seem odd to you that you could do it [within the rules]?”

Mr Brimstone said he had not thought it was strange because he had come across the scheme through his work as a Spad and suggestions of the Housing Executive using it for communal heat needs between multiple properties. He said that it seemed clear to him that if there were two houses beside each other “that both of those properties could be heated through the non-domestic scheme for totally domestic purposes, in essence”.

Therefore, he said, “it didn’t seem odd from where I came at the scheme”.

Mr Brimstone stressed that it “never crossed my mind” to run his boiler more than was necessary or leave doors open.

Mr Aiken said: “In fairness to you, what I’m making clear, from the material the inquiry has received, is that as a fact that clearly wasn’t what you were doing.

“In fairness to you, I’m making that clear because the usage figures that have been provided indicate that your boiler was running for about four to four and a half hours per day [on average across the course of a year] – that’s rather different from 24 hours per day”.