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RHI: DUP advisor Brimstone says officials are groping about his role as Stormont

Former special adviser to DUP, Stephen Brimstone, admitted that he did not inform the official who led the RHI plan about his position at Stormont when he called him to inquire about registering a boiler.

The RHI survey yesterday heard how fellow DUP Spad Dr. Andrew Crawford had given Mr. Brimstone the contact details of Stuart Wightman, head of the energy efficiency department at the Department of Commerce, Enterprise and Investments (Deti).

At the request of the president of the investigation, Sir Patrick Coghlin, when he told the official who managed the scheme that he was a special DUP advisor, Mr. Brimstone replied: "I do not think I would."

Mr. Wightman told the investigation in June that Mr. Brimstone had given his name but had not identified himself as a DUP advisor.

He said he remembered the call as "pretty unusual" because it began: "I think you're the man to talk about RHI."

The investigation yesterday heard there were "more than 30 liver-arch files" of material related to the application of the former DUP Spad to the RHI scheme and subsequent investigations.

The manager of the system, Ofgem (the Office of Gas and Electricity Market), confirmed that Brimstone's application was fully valid according to the RHI rules.

The application from the former DUP special adviser for the RHI scheme was successful. His brother Aaron is also an RHI-applicant.

Stephen Brimstone was a Spad in the office of Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (OFMDFM) of Prime Minister Michelle McIlveen of DUP in 2016.

Mr. Brimstone told the investigation that he first heard about the RHI scheme when he was a Spad at the Department of Social Development for DUP Minister Nelson McCausland.

He no longer knew how the plan came to his attention. "In the department, the minister had to deal with higher heating costs, especially in high-rise masts in social housing." We had looked at "pay-as-you-go" solutions that did not exist at the time "he said.

The high heating costs were "a specific issue for those social tenants" who used the old Economy Seven heating system, so efforts were made to explore alternatives. He recalled a ministerial visit to social housing in Germany where biomass boilers were used.

When asked if colleague Spad Dr. Crawford had brought RHI to his attention, Mr. Brimstone replied: "No, to be honest with Andrew, I do not think I can put it against him, I really can not remember how I met him, it was a simple search on the internet or what it was. "

Mr. Brimstone had installed a biomass boiler in 2007 to heat his house. He said that it had been upgraded over the years despite his "meticulous maintenance & # 39; of it. He remembered that he sometimes had to disassemble and build again. "Everyone (with) a biomass boiler has to be prepared to get their hands dirty," he added.

Mr. Brimstone stated that he was considering replacing his biomass boiler with an oil boiler. However, he opted for another biomass boiler under the RHI scheme. "I wish I had gone back to oil now," he told the research. He also stated that he wished he had never encountered the RHI scheme.

Mr. Brimstone said he never had the idea "for one minute" that the boiler would last for the 20-year life of the RHI. From his eight-year experience with his old boiler, he found that they needed a lot of maintenance.

He asked for the non-domestic RHI scheme because he believed that the heating of two homes with a non-domestic boiler was permitted according to the rules.

The survey said that he did not have the boiler in operation to heat his house and drop it 24 hours a day. Earlier, the research had shown that it ran four to four and a half hours a day.

Mr. Brimstone said he knew RHI was a "good" scheme, but he never considered running his boiler "100% of the time".

He was not "out to milk the system". The former DUP Spad said it might be & # 39; naïve & # 39; was from him, but that he had never heard that someone was trying to use those resources to generate more income & # 39 ;.

Two on-the-spot inspections were carried out by energy officials at his installation, but this was found to comply with the non-domestic RHI scheme.

The investigation revealed that the house and barn of Mr. Brimstone had been built on land given to him by his wife and her father. His RHI application was approved in April 2016 when he was in OFMDFM, but he received payments that went back to the previous August when he signed up.

Junior counsel for the research Joseph Aiken stated that in 2008 Land and Property Services had established that the pilot for interest rates was an agricultural building. This was important because according to RHI regulations, if a boiler was installed in an agricultural building, it probably did not have its suitability.

Sir Patrick questioned Mr. Brimstone about the agricultural work in the barn. He said it was used for "working on machines", such as tractors.

The survey found that the original 25kw biomass boiler from the DUP Spad was installed in the shed in 2007 with the help of a £ 3,000 grant from Action Renewables. Mr Aiken noted that Mr Brimstone was an early adopter of the technology for renewable heating.

In his argument, Mr. Brimstone said that he deeply regretted that in the summer of 2015 he did not withdraw from a conversation with other DUP Spads about RHI.

He stated: "I would like to point out that, in addition to applying for the RHI scheme, I am also sorry to have my hands raised and to withdraw from even the first interview I have with Timothy Cairns and Andrew Crawford. July 15 had this submission been sent to myself and Andrew Crawford.

"I think I answered correctly, but that does not excuse me in the full realization that I ordered a boiler and went into the first week of August.

"I should have said," Boys, I have to step back from this conversation, there really is a conflict of interest here "."

Mr. Aiken said: "You should have done that and you did not do it."

Mr. Brimstone replied, "Absolutely."

Mr. Brimstone continues to provide evidence today. DUP director Timothy Johnston will appear tomorrow.

Belfast Telegraph

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