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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 17 December, 2018
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DUP MLA admits four family members made use of "cash for ash" scheme

South Down MLA Jim Wells said he wanted to make it clear that he had “no financial interests” in it whatsoever.

DUP's Jim Wells
DUP's Jim Wells
Image: Niall Carson PA Wire/PA Images

THE DUP MLA for South Down has admitted that four members of his family have had wood pellet boilers installed as part of the controversial Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), or the “cash for ash” scheme.

Jim Wells issued a statement on the matter, as he wanted to make it clear that he has “no financial interest whatsoever in any of these businesses”.

It had been identified several years ago that the RHI scheme was giving some users more in subsidies than they were paying for in fuel.

It is estimated that the error in the system will cost the Northern Irish taxpayer around half a billion pounds over the next 20 years.

While Arlene Foster, the minister in charge of the department responsible for the scheme at the time, refused to step down from her post as First Minister in the Stormont Assembly, a senior DUP adviser stood down in recent days.

The controversy has precipitated fresh elections to the Northern Assembly, after Martin McGuinness resigned from his post as Deputy First Minister, before retiring from politics earlier this week.

Wells said he had received information from a family member on Friday that four relatives had made use of the scheme.

His brother, two cousins and the husband of a third cousin “installed a combined total of eight boilers at three separate farms to heat their sheds”.

He said: “All of these farmers have been involved in poultry rearing for well over a decade and the wood pellet burners replaced existing heating systems’.

I have no financial interest whatsoever in any of these businesses but I believe that was important that I make this information public as soon as I became aware of it.

Fresh elections are due to be held in North on 2 March.

Read: Martin McGuinness is stepping away from politics and will not seek re-election

Read: Who do Sinn Féin have lined up to fill Martin McGuinness’ shoes?

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Sean Murray

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