Northern Ireland news

Businesswoman contradict's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir's RHI Inquiry claims about spad appointments

Former finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir taking the oath ahead of giving evidence to the RHI Inquiry last year

EVIDENCE provided to the RHI inquiry by former finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has been contradicted by a businesswoman the Sinn Féin MLA claimed he considered appointing as his special adviser.

The woman – identified only as witness A – has told the inquiry that Mr Ó Muilleoir never asked her about filling the spad's post.

During his evidence to Sir Patrick Coghlin's inquiry last year, the former executive minister said that when he was given the finance portfolio by Martin McGuinness in 2016, he earmarked two people from the private sector as potential spads.

He said under oath that he had spoken to witness A but she was not interested in the position.

As part of the inquiry's consideration of the role and appointment of Stormont spads, it contacted the witness last year after requesting her name from Mr Ó Muilleoir.

In her written response to the inquiry, which was made public earlier this week, witness A rejects the South Belfast MLA's assertion.

The witness also said that on the day the inquiry asked for her details she received a phone call from Mr Ó Muilleoir asking to call at her house "for a chat".

Having told the businesswoman that he had told the inquiry he had considered two candidates as his spad, the former minister then asked her if they had previously discussed her potential appointment.

"I said that we had not and he asked if we had 'ever had such a conversation even in jest'," witness A's statement says.

Five days later during a text exchange between the two, the witness insisted there was "no way" her name should be submitted to the inquiry as someone who Mr Ó Muilleoir had considered appointing.

When Witness A later learned from the second candidate Mr Ó Muilleoir claimed to have considered that her name had been given to the inquiry, she contacted the MLA and voiced her concern.

Mr Ó Muilleoir responded that he understood her concern but that he was under oath and had submitted a statement to the inquiry which "truthfully states that I did consider you as someone who would make a great spad."

When asked to account for the inconsistencies between his and witness A's evidence, Mr Ó Muilleoir insisted the 2016 phone call did take place and that the businesswoman wanted nothing to do with the inquiry because she feared "reputational damage".

The Irish News contacted Mr Ó Muilleoir yesterday for response but he declined to comment.

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