Arlene Foster reveals that DUP spad who leaked confidential government documents is now doing Brexit research for Diane Dodds
THE former DUP special adviser who admitted it was "wrong" to share confidential government papers with his poultry farmer cousin is now working on Brexit research for MEP Diane Dodds.
DUP leader Arlene Foster told the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) inquiry today that Andrew Crawford's actions were "inappropriate and disappointing" but she does not believe they warranted him being permanently sacked by the party.
Mr Crawford admitted sending his cousin Richard Crawford two emails in 2013 and 2015 containing internal departmental information about the RHI.
The Co Tyrone poultry farmer has six biomass boilers subsidised through Stormont's botched green energy scheme.
Andrew Crawford resigned from his £84,000-a-year special adviser's job in January 2017 but revealed to the inquiry last week that he still works for the DUP on a part-time basis.
When questioned today about her former special adviser's actions, the DUP leader said she was unaware that Mr Crawford had sent the internal emails or that any of his relatives were claimants of the scheme.
She said she only found out about the leaked emails through the inquiry and was "surprised" by the revelation.
Mrs Foster said that if she had known Mr Crawford was sharing internal departmental documents she would have spoken to the department's permanent secretary David Sterling and expected him to launch an investigation. The DUP leader said she would have also alerted party officers.
Inquiry senior counsel David Scoffield put it to Mrs Foster that her former spad's continued employment by the DUP may suggest the party did not regard his actions as "particularly serious".
She said Mr Crawford was carrying out Brexit research for an MEP – thought to be Diane Dodds – but it was "very much a backroom role".
Mrs Foster said it was "not a full-time job by any means" and that she believed what Mr Crawford did should not "bar a person from having part-time research employment forever and a day".
"And I am quite sure that he has learned his lesson in relation to that because of the way in which things transpired in January and February of 2016, and he has been the subject ... for a man who never sought the media spotlight, he has been greatly thrown into the media spotlight, and has suffered as a result of that," she said.
Inquiry chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin said that it was "hardly surprising" the media took an interest in him given the circumstances.
Mrs Foster answered: "Well, I think the scale, chair, of what happened to him, was difficult to take in at the time."
She said the media scrutiny was to be expected but said what was not expected was "some of the more outrageous commentary around it".