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DUP economy minister blocked FoI requests in hours before he left office

Simon Hamilton blocked eight separate requests for documents relating to the RHI scheme in the hours before he left ministerial office last week. Picture by Bill Smyth

THE DUP's Simon Hamilton blocked eight separate requests for documents relating to the RHI scheme in the hours before he left ministerial office last week.

The Stormont economy minister had previously not responded to the numerous Freedom of Information requests made by the News Letter.

The FoI responses, which must be signed off by the minister, dated back to around mid-December.

However, in his last act as economy minister on election day last Thursday, refusal responses were issued to the newspaper.

If the responses had not been responded to, the permanent secretary of the department would have had the authority to authorise the release of the information.

Also if the DUP politician's department had issued refusal notices within 20 days, they could have been appealed to the Information Commission who can order the release of the information if it has been wrongly withheld.

Among the information requested by the News Letter related to Mr Hamilton's special adviser John Robinson.

In the wake of the scandal, Mr Robinson admitted his father-in-law had two RHI boilers, which later forced him to confirm he would take no further part in RHI issues at the department.

The newspaper had asked for a copy of "all declarations of interest by the minister's special adviser John Robinson since he joined the department last year".

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