More than a week after a potentially crucial email was given to the RHI Inquiry hours before the appearance of a powerful DUP figure, mystery still surrounds why it arrived more than a year after the inquiry compelled the production of all documentation.
The email, which dates to the period in summer 2015 when the RHI scheme was running out of control, undermined the story of the DUP’s powerful chief executive, Timothy Johnston, who has denied that he had any knowledge of RHI in that period.
Last Thursday, counsel for the inquiry Donal Lunny told an evidence session at which Mr Johnston was testifying that late the previous night the inquiry had been given an email by another former DUP Spad, Timothy Cairns, which showed significant contact between them on RHI.
The email appears to have been supplied because it contained a reference to another green energy scheme, the NIRO, which the inquiry had belatedly requested DUP Spads search their email accounts for references to.
However, the email also contained a reference to “renewable heat”, meaning that if it was in the possession of either the DUP, Mr Johnston or Mr Cairns prior to that point it ought to have been disclosed.
The inquiry has now published the email, showing that it was sent from Mr Cairns’s DUP.org.uk email address to Mr Johnston – who has told the inquiry that he also used an email address on the DUP server, rather than a departmental email, for government business.
If the email remains on the DUP server, that would mean that the party should have disclosed it, even if neither of the two men now have access to it.
The News Letter asked the DUP why it had not handed over the email before now if it was in the party’s possession, whether the party had established if it had other material that may not have been handed over and who within the party had been responsible for giving documents to the inquiry. The party declined to comment, saying that the inquiry was still in process.
Mr Cairns, who no longer works for the party, was asked why he was only submitting the email now and whether he was aware of the party having access to his old emails.
He said: “I have been advised by my solicitor to respond as follows: The inquiry process is ongoing. Until the inquiry has concluded I do not feel in a position to assist at this stage. This is out of respect for the inquiry process.”