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RHI: DUP Spads linked by families

DUP special advisers John Robinson and Timothy Johnston

A DUP special adviser named in allegations surrounding the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme is married to the sister of another party adviser accused over the scandal.

Timothy Johnston and John Robinson have been accused of being the reason for a block on cost controls.

Mr Johnston, a special adviser (Spad) to Arlene Foster when she was first minister, is married to a sister of Mr Robinson, DUP economy minister Simon Hamilton's Spad.

On Monday suspended DUP MLA Jonathan Bell used assembly privilege to name the two Spads in relation to RHI.

The ex-minister claimed he was thwarted in his efforts to clamp down on the multi-million pound RHI overspend because the pair "have such extensive interests in the poultry industry".

In response, the DUP branded Mr Bell's allegations as "outrageous, untrue and unfounded mud-slinging".

Mr Johnston said he has no connection to the RHI scheme. He said he has two brothers-in-law in the poultry industry but they have no RHI connections.

Mr Robinson initially said: "I have no personal interest in the poultry industry. Two of my brothers are poultry farmers but they have no connections to RHI."

However, in a further statement on Tuesday night, Mr Robinson said his father-in-law was part of the RHI scheme.

He said the poultry farmer signed up to the scheme several months before he married his daughter in October 2015, and stressed he had never advised anyone to join RHI.

Spads: What are they?

Mr Robinson, a former director of communications with the DUP, added that neither he or his wife had any direct involvement with the business or RHI.

He said his father-in-law joined the scheme before he started to work directly with Mr Hamilton in June 2016.

Last night Alliance leader Naomi Long said Mr Robinson had a "clear conflict of interest" given his current role in advising Mr Hamilton as he tries to develop a solution to the RHI scheme, and called for a civil service investigation.

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