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Dublin: 3°C Thursday 4 March 2021

On dramatic day for politics in the North, a senior DUP figure also stood down

Dr Andrew Crawford has been accused of exerting his influence to keep the “cash for ash” scheme running.

Image: Peter Morrison AP/Press Association Images

THE RESIGNATION OF Martin McGuinness may have been the major story to come from Northern politics yesterday, but a senior DUP adviser also announced his resignation.

Dr Andrew Crawford said he was stepping down shortly after a public inquiry was announced into the controversial “cash for ash” scheme by outgoing-Finance Minister Sinn Féin’s Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.

In a meeting of Stormont’s Public Account’s Committee on Wednesday, a senior civil servant said that Crawford had exerted his influence to keep the flawed Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) running.

It is expected that flaws in the system – whereby businesses received more in subsidies than they paid for fuel – could lead to an overspend of almost half a billion pounds in the coming years.

Crawford was a special adviser to former First Minister Arlene Foster, whose department are said to have repeatedly ignored warnings over the flaws in the RHI scheme.

At the PAC meeting at Stormont, senior civil servant Dr Andrew McCormick said that he understood that Crawford had influenced the decision to keep the RHI running, although he did not have direct evidence to back that up.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, Crawford said that the public inquiry would show he “acted with complete integrity”.

He said that he was resigning because he did not want to be a “distraction” and that he was “conscious that [he had] become the focus of the story”.

The Belfast Telegraph also reports that Crawford’s brother is a poultry farmer who is a recipient of payments under the RHI scheme, although there is no suggestion that the scheme has been used inappropriately.

Moving to instigate a public inquiry into the “cash for ash” scheme, Sinn Féin’s Ó Muilleoir said that “no other type of investigation is now feasible given time pressures”.

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He added: “This enquiry will be impartial and objective. I will not interfere in its work. It will be tasked to get to the truth of this issue.

“Under the Enquiries Act, the enquiry report must go to the Finance Minister. I give a commitment that I or any Sinn Féin Minister will release the report in full to the public on receipt.

I am aware that the RHI issue goes beyond financial matters to questions of governance and probity. By getting to the truth of the RHI scandal, this inquiry report will, I believe, address those wider issues, and, therefore, put the public first.

Arlene Foster faced repeated calls to resign over the issue, but persistently refused to do so.

The resignation of McGuinness as Deputy First Minister, however, forced the hand of Westminster to call an election, which will take place 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?

About the author:

Sean Murray

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