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pointing fingers

Arlene Foster claims Martin McGuinness knew of whistleblower's concerns over Cash for Ash as early as she did

Foster also derided the actions of former DUP minister Jonathan Bell in her testimony before the RHI inquiry today.

Renewable Heat Incentive scheme A laptop displays the live feed of DUP leader Arlene Foster giving testimony to the RHI inquiry today in Belfast PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

DUP LEADER ARLENE Foster has claimed that her former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was aware of a whistleblower’s concerns regarding the so-called Cash for Ash scandal in Northern Ireland as early as she was.

The public inquiry into the scandal today heard from Foster regarding the incident that kickstarted the scandal – a note from the whistleblower that claimed the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme was being abused by people who were using their heating systems all day and night for financial gain.

The furore over the scheme eventually led to the collapse of the Assembly government at Stormont (on foot of Martin McGuinness’s resignation over Cash for Ash) in January of 2017, which has remained without a functioning executive ever since.

Foster first received the note regarding the whistleblower’s concerns in January of 2016. She had been the minister with responsibility for initiating the scheme in 2012.

Today she told the inquiry that McGuinness, who died in March 2017, had been aware of those concerns at the same time that she first came to know of them.

She said that if she had not given McGuinness the note, that she had certainly told him about it.

‘Great regret’

“My recollection is clear, if I didn’t show it to the DFM (Deputy First Minister), I certainly spoke to the DFM about it,” she told the inquiry.

She said that if something akin to the note in question had “come into the DUP system” it would also have come to the notice of Sinn Féin.

“So I would have imagined that Sinn Féin were aware of that document,” she said.

Foster also took aim at her successor as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment (the department with responsibility for the RHI scheme) in the north, former DUP MLA Jonathan Bell, saying it was a ‘great regret’ of hers that she hand not removed him from office when she became First Minister in January 2016.

Bell had previously claimed that fellow DUP representatives had attempted to ‘fit him up’ over the scandal, which saw him suspended from the party in December 2016.

“Clearly with hindsight I shouldn’t have left him there, the view was expressed to me, how much harm can he do in three months.”

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