Northern Ireland news

Foster tells RHI inquiry McGuinness knew of whistleblower's warning about energy scheme abuse

A laptop in the Great Hall of Stormont's Parliament Buildings in Belfast showing a live feed of the DUP leader Arlene Foster giving evidence to the RHI inquiry PICTURE: Liam McBurney/PA
Rebecca Black

THE late deputy first minister Martin McGuinness was aware of a whistleblower warning about a renewable energy scheme, Arlene Foster has insisted.

A note from a whistleblower claimed people were abusing the RHI scheme by running boilers 24/7 and all year round for financial gain.

Mr McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister in January 2017 in protest at the handling of the botched green energy incentive.

Mrs Foster told the RHI public inquiry that Mr McGuinness knew about the contents of the whistleblower's note, which she received in January 2016.

She said it was the first time she heard of the potential for fraud in the scheme, although the then head of the civil service Malcolm McKibbin had raised concerns with her over its financing.

Mrs Foster said she had passed the information to Mr McKibbin.

"I knew that once I handed it to the head of the civil service, that it was being dealt with in the appropriate way," she told the inquiry.

A senior Sinn Féin worker, Aidan McAteer, has claimed in his written evidence to the inquiry that the note "was not shared" with Mr McGuinness "at that time".

Mrs Foster queried that during her evidence to the inquiry yesterday, and said if she did not give it to Mr McGuinness, she spoke to him about it.

"My recollection is clear, if I didn't show it to the DFM (deputy first minister), I certainly spoke to the DFM about it," she told the inquiry.

"And in any event, the head of the civil service works for both myself and the deputy first minister, so I presume that the minute that was sent to Andrew McCormick... if it came into the DUP system, it would have went into the Sinn Féin system. So I would have imagined that Sinn Féin were aware of that document."

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