Public confidence in executive being eroded warns PAC

Posted By: December 14, 2016

John Monaghan. Irish News (Belfast). Wednesday, December 14, 2016

THE DUP’s refusal to say when former special adviser Stephen Brimstone applied for the RHI

[ Renewal Heat Incentive] scheme is eroding public confidence in the executive, it has been said.

The deputy chair of the assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said confidence in the executive “is melting away by the hour” following the lack of disclosure by the DUP regarding who exactly benefited from the RHI scheme.

It comes as the DUP said it was unable to outline when and on what basis Stephen Brimstone became a claimant under the RHI scheme as the party “is not privy to specific details” of the application.

SDLP West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan said economy minister Simon Hamilton can “no longer continue to hide behind the Data Protection Act.”

“We have been clear, the Department for the Economy must release a full list of those benefiting from the scheme and particular interest should be paid to those who jumped on the gravy train towards the end of last year when there was an unusually large spike in applicants.
Anything less than complete transparency and accountability on the loss of £400 million of public money is unacceptable.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said Mr. Brimstone “owes it to the public to come forward and be upfront about his application and how he is benefiting from the scheme.”

Mr.Allister said: “How could they (DUP) not be aware of the problems when one of the persons being very generously paid by the taxpayer as a Spad ( Special Adviser) to help spot scandals like RHI was benefiting from that very scheme? Did Mr.Brimstone apply under the domestic or the non-domestic scheme? What property is he heating as a result? How does he heat his home? When did he apply?”

Although First Minister Arlene Foster confirmed on Monday that Mr. Brimstone was a recipient of the RHI scheme, she said she was unaware that a brother of another special adviser was a claimant because she “wasn’t privy to who had applied into the scheme.”

A DUP spokesman told The Irish News: “The DUP is not privy to the details of applicants to the RHI scheme. The first minister was able to confirm that she was aware Mr. Brimstone was a claimant of the scheme.

“The DUP is not privy to specific details of that application. Such details are a matter for Mr. Brimstone.”

Although registered as a director with a private firm in Kesh, it is understood that Mr. Brimstone lives in Broughshane, Co Antrim.

Mr. Brimstone has not responded to a request for comment from The Irish News.