Northern Ireland

Family of former DUP special adviser stood to earn £6m from RHI, book claims

Arlene Foster's former Spad Andrew Crawford
Arlene Foster's former Spad Andrew Crawford

The family of a former DUP special adviser at Stormont stood to earn £6m from the installation of controversial RHI boilers.

Andrew Crawford served as a Spad to DUP leader Arlene Foster at the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment when the botched scheme was introduced.

He resigned in January 2017 after he was named in the assembly's Public Accounts Committee as attempting to delay the introduction of cost controls to the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) scheme - a claim he strongly denies.

Although it was already known 11 of the controversial boilers were installed by members of Mr Crawford’s extended family, the potential multi-million pound windfall has been revealed in a new book about the scandal published this week.

‘Burned: The Inside Story of the Cash For Ash Scandal and Northern Ireland’s Secretive New Elite’ lifts the lid on the discredited energy scheme.

Read More: Andrew Crawford 'created culture of fear', book claims

Penned by Sam McBride, who is political editor at the News Letter, the investigation reveals previously unknown details about the controversy and some of those at the centre of it.

The political fall-out from the scheme ultimately resulted in the collapse of the assembly in January 2017.

It emerged during a public inquiry last year that three of Mr Crawford’s relatives, including his brother and two cousins, were involved in the scheme.

It was also revealed that Mr Crawford emailed his cousin Richard a confidential government document outlining planned RHI cost controls in 2015.

Read More: Andrew Crawford 'no longer employed by DUP'

In his book Mr McBride calculates how much the RHI scheme would have been worth to the wider Crawford family.

Burned: 'The Inside Story of the‘Cash-for-Ash’ Scandal and Northern Ireland’s Secretive New Elite
Burned: 'The Inside Story of the‘Cash-for-Ash’ Scandal and Northern Ireland’s Secretive New Elite

“By the time RHI had been reined in – after what others alleged was Andrew Crawford’s attempts to delay that happening, something he denied – his relatives had 11 RHI boilers between them,” he writes.

“There has never been any suggestion that any of the Crawfords were fraudulently claiming or exploiting RHI. However, given that as poultry farmers they had a high heat demand, it was enormously beneficial to them.

“Assuming a 50 percent load factor common for poultry units – and much less than some poultry farmers were claiming for – the 11 boilers could have been expected to pull in more than £6 million between them.”

Mr McBride also points out that Mr Crawford has claimed he was not aware of how much money there was to be made through the scheme.

“Under prolonged and deeply sceptical questioning at the inquiry, Crawford repeatedly insisted that he had not been aware from his family of how lucrative RHI was and denied that the information he had sent his relatives had been financially beneficial to them,” he wrote.”

Video: Who are the five DUP special advisers at the centre of the RHI storm?