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Andrew McCormick's testimony will pile further pressure on DUP

The most senior civil servant in the economy department provided a series of dramatic disclosures on the Renewable Heat Incentive debacle to the Stormont public accounts committee yesterday, adding further pressure on the DUP.

Permanent secretary Dr Andrew McCormick revealed that insider information may have played a role in the spike in applications which contributed to the massive overspend in the scheme.

This is a very serious matter which needs rigorous investigation.

Dr McCormick was also asked about the influence that was being exerted from outside his department, Deti, to delay the imposition of controls that would have mitigated the spiralling cost of RHI.

When pressed to name the person who was exerting pressure, the permanent secretary said while he had no direct evidence, he understood the person to be Andrew Crawford.

Mr Crawford was special adviser to Arlene Foster at Deti when the RHI scheme was introduced and continued in that role when she moved to the finance department.

He has already disclosed that his brother, a poultry farmer, is a recipient of the RHI scheme but denies trying to delay the cost controls.

Even so, Dr McCormick's testimony is highly significant and comes after former minister Jonathan Bell made a series of allegations regarding DUP special advisers under assembly privilege.

Another special adviser, John Robinson, confirmed his father-in-law runs two boilers under the scheme.

There is no doubt the revelations in recent days will add to the growing sense of unease over the role and influence of special advisers in Stormont and any potential conflicts of interest that may arise.

Those advisers named so far have denied any wrongdoing but there is an onus on them and the party to disclose all information, links and correspondence in relation to RHI.

There is a feeling that we are not being given the full picture and information is having to be dragged out of the DUP, bit by bit.

This is not only enormously damaging to the party but also to public confidence in our political system.

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