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DUP special adviser John Robinson 'steps aside' from further RHI involvement

John Robinson is special adviser to DUP economy minister Simon Hamilton

A SPECIAL adviser to DUP Economy Minister Simon Hamilton is to step aside from any future role in the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme after failing to declare that his father-fin-law had two RHI boilers.

John Robinson, who was formerly the DUP's director of communications, said last night he was stepping aside to avoid the "accusation or perception of a conflict of interest".

In a statement to the News Letter, the DUP said: "Minister Hamilton was aware of John’s father-in-law being a scheme recipient. Since neither John nor his wife had any role in the business nor received any financial benefit from it, no further action was felt necessary.

"No written declaration of interest was made to the department at the time as John felt there was no such conflict as he was not involved in any way in the application, the relevant business and received no benefit and all this occurred before he was appointed in June 2016.

"John regrets this in that it has allowed a situation to develop where there is a perception of a conflict."

On Monday suspended DUP MLA Jonathan Bell used assembly privilege to name two Spads in relation to RHI - Mr Robinson and fellow DUP special adviser Timothy Johnston.

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.

Mr Robinson said: "I have never had any personal financial interest in the RHI Scheme".

"At no point have I ever advised anyone to join the Sse or sought to benefit in any way from it.

"Neither my wife nor I have ever had any role in the business nor have we received any benefit, financial or otherwise, from the business.

"I was appointed as an adviser in the Department for the Economy in June 2016. I was not involved in any aspect of the RHI Scheme prior to taking up the post."

The doomed energy scheme has left the administration in Belfast facing a £490 million bill.

DUP leader Mrs Foster oversaw the RHI during her time as economy minister.

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