Sinn Fein slow to clarify if any representatives in RHI

Former UUP MLA Neil Somerville. Picture: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye �
Former UUP MLA Neil Somerville. Picture: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye �

It is still not clear if any elected members of Sinn Fein or their families are receiving payments from the controversial RHI scheme.

At the time of going to press on Tuesday night, the party had not responded to a request for the information from the News Letter.

Some political parties have been auditing their members to establish a definitive list of any involved in the scheme – or who have family members benefiting from RHI payments.

However a full list of recipients has not yet been complied and published.

A party spokesman for the SDLP said: “No SDLP public representatives are beneficiaries of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme. One councillor’s brother lodged a successful application in February 2016 but will not benefit from the terms of the scheme which allow individuals to profit from burning wood pellets.

“The SDLP continues to call for the full list of RHI beneficiaries to be made public in the interests of transparency and full scrutiny.”

Both the DUP and UUP asked all of their elected representatives if anyone had benefitted directly from the RHI scheme.

A DUP spokesman said: “Carla Lockhart has indicated that her sister-in-law’s husband is a farmer and is in the scheme. Carla has only recently become aware of this. William Irwin has a son-in-law who is a farmer and is in the scheme.”

He added: “Neither MLA was involved in lobbying for these individuals and neither has any financial or other interests in the farms concerned.”

The UUP said a small number had relatives who were recipients of RHI payments, but said no elected representatives benefitted from RHI.

“We have now been made aware that a business owned by an aunt and uncle of Sandra Overend MLA is a recipient under the RHI scheme, of which Sandra was previously unaware. Mrs Overend’s uncle is married to a sister of Jim Nicholson MEP (making her an aunt of Councillor Sam Nicholson),” a party spokesman said.

“We have also confirmed that Neil Somerville, who served as an Ulster Unionist MLA for seven months during the last mandate before standing down, has a wood pellet boiler accredited under the RHI Scheme in his family’s business, Clogher Valley Horses Welcome.”