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Jim Wells calls on DUP spin doctor to 'consider his position' after leaked emails revelation

John Robinson and Simon Hamilton leaked civil servants emails

A FORMER DUP minister has called on the party's chief spin doctor to "review his position" after it emerged that he leaked civil servants' emails in order to deflect media attention away from the colleague at the centre of RHI corruption allegations.

One-time Stormont health minister Jim Wells told The Irish News that the DUP director of communications John Robinson would be "out on his ear in any other jurisdiction".

The South Down MLA also revealed how Arlene Foster's former special adviser Andrew Crawford was "secretly brought back into the party" after he resigned last year amid claims that he sought to delay curbs on RHI subsidies.

Mr Wells said he and other party members only learned that Mr Crawford had been re-employed when the former spad gave evidence to the RHI inquiry in April.

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Mr Crawford resigned as a spad to DUP agriculture minister Michelle McIlveen in January last year after senior civil servant Andrew McCormick told a Stormont committee that the former Ulster Farmers Union employee had used his influence to delay the reduction of the RHI scheme's excessively high tariffs.

Earlier this week at the inquiry into the botched scheme, former economy minister Simon Hamilton revealed how in January last year he and Mr Robinson conspired to leak emails to the press in the hope that they would take the heat off Mr Crawford and the DUP.

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The emails from Stormont officials to UFU poultry industry representatives and boiler installers dated from July 2015 and were "pretty explosive", according to Mr Hamilton. They showed civil servants warning of forthcoming cost controls for the scheme.

Mr Wells described Mr Hamilton's revelations as "some of the most shocking so far".

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He conceded he had an "axe to grind" with Mr Robinson because he blames the DUP spin doctor for his failure to be reappointed to the health portfolio after resigning in 2015 over controversial remarks about same-sex marriage but he said the facts were "pretty damning" when considered objectively.

The South Down MLA, who is currently suspended from the DUP, said it was noteworthy that the revelations around the leaking of emails emerged only after Mr Robinson had given evidence to the inquiry.

"John Robinson had the opportunity last month to declare what he did but for some reason chose not to," Mr Wells said.

The former health minister said the DUP director of communications should consider resigning.

"Without doubt he should review his position because I believe he'd be out on his ear in any other jurisdiction, whether it was Westminster or Leinster House," he said.

"His behaviour has demeaned his position and contributed to the widely held perception that Northern Ireland's body politic has been discredited."

Mr Wells said even if the DUP sacked Mr Robinson, the party would "probably sneak him back in, like they did with Andrew Crawford".

When asked if Mr Robinson would face any disciplinary process or sanctions for engaging in malpractice, the DUP said it had a policy of not commenting on ongoing issues relating to RHI while the inquiry is ongoing.

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