Arlene’s Ash for Cash Scandal: DUP’s Hell as RHI Fire exposes Brimstone

Guess who’s back in the news?

Stephen Brimstone, for long a prominent DUP Special Advisor (SpAd) at Stormont, has been revealed to be a beneficiary of the RHI scheme.

Brimstone, very recently retired from his post as Arlene Foster’s SpAd, had previously served as SpAd for DUP Social Development Ministers Nelson McCausland and Mervyn Storey, before being promoted to work in the OFMDFM for Peter Robinson in May 2015.

Mr Brimstone has a track record when it comes to making waves at Stormont, as this Belfast Telegraph report reminds us:

Mr Brimstone was the Spad accused in a BBC Panorama investigation of telling Lisburn councillor Mrs Palmer, a DUP representative on the HE board, to change her vote in relation to the Red Sky contract.

In a phone call he was alleged to have told her: “The party comes first- you do what you are told.”

The committee said Mr Brimstone failed to provide complete accounts of meetings, and was “deliberately evasive in his answers to the point of obstructing the committee in carrying out its statutory function”.

It said he did not give MLAs “the information and assistance which (we) expected”, while the evidence of Mrs Palmer, a DUP councillor, was “compelling, consistent and convincing”.

The committee therefore said it accepted Mrs Palmer’s account of the phone call and concluded that Mr Brimstone was “inappropriately attempting to influence the board’s discussions on behalf on the minister”.

Brimstone survived the Red Sky affair, and stayed on as a SpAd in the Executive Office, working with Arlene Foster, after the 2016 Assembly elections.

TUV Leader, Jim Allister, is left to raise one of the many central questions needing answered at this time:

“Having had it confirmed that while a DUP special adviser Stephen Brimstone was also a beneficiary of the lucrative Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, I feel entitled to ask if he was the only DUP and government insider seeking to take advantage of the scheme? It is not suggested such would be unlawful, but, nonetheless, if insiders were seeking to avail of the scheme, before it was capped, it adds a new dimension. Given the public dismay over the handling of this scheme it is now very much in the public interest that all beneficiaries are identified. The public money paid to individual local farmers and lawyers is published every year, so there is no sustainable basis upon which this RHI information is being withheld. Political embarrassment is not an adequate reason. Has the DUP got something to hide?”

SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood, appropriately raised the issue of the identity of the spike applicants on Talkback today:

We need to know who benefited particularly around that 3 month period when there was a spike in applications… Who benefited, how close are they to politicians, who told them to pile into that scheme before it closed down.

Indeed.