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That's all from the BBC News at Six, so it's goodbye from me,
The heat gets turned up on the green energy controversy as a senior civil
servant names Arlene Foster's former special advisor.
My understanding was that Andrew Crawford was the person with that
influence, but I have no direct evidence of that.
A DUP advisor admits his father-in-law has
A few days ago, he said no-one in his family had any.
A brother and sister are still critical after being hit
by a car near Randalstown - their principal says everyone
The Prime Minister says the leaving the customs but what does that mean?
Guy Martin is coming back to road racing in Northern Ireland.
And sunshine still a bit elusive, but at least it's mainly dry.
A senior civil servant says he believes a former special adviser
to Arlene Foster exerted influence in relation to the Renewable
Dr Andrew McCormick told Stormont's Public Accounts Committee
that he understood the adviser had influenced a decision
Naming the advisor as Andrew Crawford, he also told the committee
that he had no direct evidence of this.
Dr McCormick, who is a departmental permanent secretary,
also said that leaked insider information may have had
a significant impact on the ?490m overspend.
Conor Macauley watched the committee hearing.
He acknowledged it tends himself, there was huge interest in what he
had to say. There is more attention on this than back in September. He
is the senior civil servant in the Department for the economy, charged
with clearing up this mess. It emerged today that he told me DUP of
his belief that one of their special advisers was exerting pressure to
keep the scheme open, even as applications were flooding in and
officials wanted to shut it down. There was a view from others in the
party that the date originally proposed should be extended, that we
were aware of the time, where of some of those conversations through
the summer of 2015. I was never clear exactly who was involved, that
the person with the dealing with was Timothy Cairns, but he was making it
clear to us that it was not his own idea, nor the Minister's idea. That
led to an obvious question from the Public Accounts Committee, whose
idea was it? The understanding that I expressed to the Minister and to
his adviser in recent times is that Andrew Crawford had been the person
exerting that influence. He was at pains to say he had no direct
influence of that pressure. In the summer of 2015, Andrew Crawford was
Arlene Foster's spa, and his brother is a claimant. At one point in
proceedings, Arlene Foster's name came up to. Having considered all
the material, have you seen any evidence of wrongdoing by the former
First Minister? No. Mr McCormick was only getting started in a session
where he confirmed he was permitted to speak freely. He said there had
been a perfect storm of circumstances that led to the
projected over stand, a lack of understanding by officials of the
lucrative subsidy, the fact that the industry did understand, and that up
to 100 installers were spreading the word to get in. And then this
bombshell. Around the period of July, there is evidence of some
premature information being made available to the industry, and some
document appeared with me anonymously after Christmas, and
this needs further investigation. I would prefer not to say too much
about these because I don't want to prejudice the investigation, but the
consequence is very serious because this shows that there was premature
awareness of the potential for the tariff to be reduced, and the
message went within the sector, getting quick. Would that be a
suggestion that it has come from within your department? Yes. Not
from any other source? The evidence suggests there was some information
being shared prematurely with the industry from departmental
officials, yes. There were further revelations about on tax with the
police and allegations of abuse in the scheme. And a meeting with a
density Minister, and proceedings may have been recorded in the
chamber without his knowledge or consent. It seems that the drip feed
of revelations has finally turned into a torrent.
In a statement, Andrew Crawford confirmed that in the summer of 2015
he had spoken to his fellow special adviser in the Department of
enterprise, trade and investment about the R H I scheme. He said he
would have been offering informal advice and assistance to a colleague
and was not speaking behalf of the then Finance Minister Arlene Foster.
He repeated that he had not sought to keep the scheme open against the
wishes of the Deputy Minister, and had advised that changes to the
terrorists take effect from October one.
Meanwhile, Simon Hamilton's special advisor John Robinson is coming
under pressure to step aside after he confirmed that his
father-in-law is involved in the controversial RHI scheme.
Mr Robinson has insisted he has no role in his
But opposition parties at Stormont say he should not be advising
Simon Hamilton at a time when the Minister is dealing with
Our Political Correspondent Enda McClafferty reports.
John Robinson is a key player in the DUP's backroom team.
He's been advising the leadership on how best to deal with the press
Now he's making the headlines, and here's why.
The very first piece of information given to me at a mystic thing-macro
ministerial office by the DUP appointed special adviser Timothy
Cairns that you will not be allowed to reduce the tariff on this scheme
because the special adviser to the then First Minister, and John
Robinson, the director of locations to the DUP at that time, and now the
special adviser to the economy minister has such extensive interest
in the poultry industry. Both special advisors rejected those
allegations and John Robinson then sought to put the record straight,
issuing a statement. But 24 hours later he had to issue
a second statement after it emerged his father-in-law
was involved in the scheme. Again, John Robinson denied any
personal involvement. He confirmed his father-in-law
was in the scheme, saying: Some have questioned how
the information was released. The DUP won't necessarily tell you a
liar, but they won't necessarily disclose everything.
John Robinson was not up for talking today, so we didn't
get a chance to ask him if he is the right man to advise
the Minister, Simon Hamilton, about fixing a scheme
which his father-in-law is involved in.
Obviously there is a conflict of interest there, and that is
something that ought to have been disclosed at the earliest
opportunity. It does not necessarily mean that it would prevent him doing
the job well, but people ought to be aware that he has that conflict.
John Robinson, the party officer who made a career
out of helping others deal with tricky political questions,
has had to come up with some answers himself.
Joining me now is our business correspondent Julian O'Neill
and our political editor Mark Devenport.
It is very unusual to get such a senior civil servant releasing so
many bombshells, even the revelation that one of his conversations he
thinks may have been taped with his former minister. There was plenty of
grist for the various opposition parties to talk about in relation to
this. Sinn Fein talked about this being more evidence of mishandling
of the R H I scheme, the Ulster Unionists talked about a gross
misuse of power, but there were some elements within the permanent
secretary's evidence that Arlene Foster might have taken a bit of
heart from. Simon Hamilton will release the names of the RHI
beneficiaries next week. Yes, it is his intention of his to publish a
Who's Who of RHI recipients on the last sitting day of the assembly
next week. We are talking about a list of up to 1400 businesses. The
Minister and the DUP have been under political pressure to do this. All
we have had thus far is a leaking of information of the location of body
as. Dash-macro boilers. The assembly earlier this week was told it was
the Department's intention to publish the list last week that it
held off under threat of injunction. The Public Accounts Committee was
today told that legal action is ongoing, but the minister wants
openness and transparency around this. 90% of those people he wrote
to before Christmas did not consent to their names being put into the
public domain. He has got to balance that and he is now in the process of
writing to them again, mindful of the Data Protection Act, but he does
think it is in the public interest to publish. One assumes, if this
intention is carried through, along with a list of businesses we will
get information around when they applied. Was it during the
well-publicised spike we have talked about, and how much have they
received in payments? Who is going to take more comfort out of today,
Arlene Foster or Jonathan Bell? Jonathan Bell was there watching the
civil servant give his evidence. Until now he has been a voice crying
on his own that there was a special adviser involvement in relation to
this, so he will at least take comfort from the fact that Andrew
McCormick has repeated that belief, it even though Andrew Crawford has
denied what has been suggested. Arlene Foster won't like the fact
that his former special adviser has been put centre frame in this, but
she will take part from the fact that Andrew McCormick said there was
no evidence of wrongdoing on her part. She to all the adviser
officials had given her, and she was not told to close it down urgently
because at that point there was not much uptake in terms of people
signing up to take on the scheme. Thank you both.
The principal of the school attended by a brother and sister knocked down
yesterday near Randalstown, has said pupils and staff
The pair, aged 14 and 11, are in a critical condition.
Our north east reporter Sara Girvin has been to the scene.
The brother and sister were making their daily commute
home from school when they were hit by a car.
Both children are pupils at St Patrick's College in Maghera.
Their principal says it's been a difficult day for the community.
They are lovely children, they are very popular with their peer group,
well respected in the school. It is devastating news for this school
community. We are very shocked. At this time, I just want to ask
everybody to keep the children in your thoughts and prayers, as we are
doing. Every prayer count at this stage.
The children were making the half hour journey
They got off the school bus and were crossing this road
when they were struck by a white Audi A3.
The vehicle remained at the scene and both children
were taken to hospital, where they are in
Residents say they've been raising safety concerns about
People are just in shock. People are in shock, it could have been any
family. This will touch every family in the local area will stop it is a
small, tight-knit community. The Department of Infrastructure
confirmed that a local MLA It said in light of that,
the department had reviewed signage The road was closed in both
directions overnight, Police have asked
witnesses to come forward. Sara Girvin,
BBC Newsline, Randalstown. Five people have been shot
in paramilitary-style attacks in the Turf Lodge area of west
Belfast in a month. The victim of the latest shooting
last night was a 26-year-old man. Police say the number
of paramilitary style shootings in west Belfast doubled in 2016,
compared to the previous year. Over the last few weeks, under the
cover of darkness, men have bought guns onto the streets. They have
carried out a total of four attacks in Turf Lodge, injuring five people.
The latest took place in this alleyway, around 10pm last night. A
man in his 20s was shot in both legs. Police had been in the area
investigating another shooting which took place very close to hear just
last week. In that attack, a husband and wife were shot in their home. It
is understood they were trying to protect their son. The week before,
a 21-year-old man was shot in both legs. And, on 18th of December, a
16-year-old boy was shot. Police say it is too early to link these
incidents come which have all taken place within a one-mile radius, but
say violent dissident republicans are behind some of the attacks. We
have seen over the last year in west Belfast a lift in these types of
incidents, and people are killing doing it for their own very selfish
ends, trying to exercise control in the community, and try to pretend
they are a police service. They are not. A police service in West
Belfast is deeply service in Northern Ireland. No other society
in the world would accept this, and my concern is that here in Northern
Ireland there is an attitude of acceptability at times. Today, no
one wanted to speak on camera, but the police say they need people to
speak to them in order to bring this spate of gun attacks to an end.
Teachers go on a half day strike over pay.
Sinn Fein have accused the Taoiseach of having no plan for dealing
Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that Brexit will mean the UK leaves
It's the arrangement which, at the moment, allows
for tariff-free trade across the border.
So, leaving the Union could mean the return of customs checks.
Our Economics and Business Editor John Campbell is at a haulage
Both the Prime Minister and the Brexit secretary have spoken today,
seeking to reassure people that however difficult things may be
around the border, that can be sorted out in Brexit negotiations,
but businesses are understandably concerned. A director of this
company told us earlier that any move towards a hard customs border
would be a disaster. My father founded the company in 1972, and I
joined 20 years ago. We have 20 trucks, 50 trailers, and we do 20-30
export a year. There is a bigger market in the south. At the moment
it takes a truck to ours. If the Borders return, it we could spend
four or five hours at the border clearing customs, which will impact
us greatly. At the minute there is no border issues at all. You can
drive straight through. Before the early 90s when the Borders came
down, a driver had to make three stops. They had to stop with a
security agent, this could take four or five hours. The working Time
directive states a driver can only work 12 hours a day. 80% of our
trucks operate in and out of mainland Europe, said the problems
we face in the South will be tenfold compare to Europe. I would like to
board is not to be there. Free trade is crucial to us. The Prime
Minister's plans came under scrutiny today, but truth be told, we did not
learn that much more about the detail of her customs plan.
So we now have a much better idea of the Prime Minister's Brexit plan.
Out of the single market, out of the customs union, and on the hunt for
new trade deals. She said there will be a new customs deal, but when
asked about it today, there was no detail. Frictionless borders in
nation to the customs issue. An important issue for us in relation
to our racial ship with the North of Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
We are on a single page on this, we want to ensure we have the best
possible arrangement that does not lead to a borders of the past for
Northern Ireland. Trade experts suggest a new deal could be focused
on important sectors like aerospace, to ensure firms like bombarding
don't experience disruption to their supply chains. But there is no real
precedent for what Theresa May is proposing. She is adamant about no
return to borders of the past, but David Davis has conceded that we
could return to a situation where lorries are being checked at the
border. That has caused alarm among employers and trade union. Sinn Fein
says it has caught the Irish government on the hop. When you say
that you will protect this country, this country goes beyond dumb dog
into the exotic lands of Newry. And as far as the Glens of Antrim. That
is the responsibility and the jurisdiction that you hold must be
want the plan, we need the plan. When do we hear the plan? No return
to a hard border. We are going to work for that. All of the details
will not be known for quite some time because the negotiations have
not even started. The Brexit negotiations are due to begin by the
end of March. Perhaps then we'll have a clearer idea what this will
mean for the border. Tonight, John Britton has entered
the debate. He has also been a former EU ambassador, and he says
Theresa May's customs plans are simply unworkable.
A Northern Ireland spokesman, Lord Dunlop, has said "any form
of joint authority" would be incompatible with the
He was responding to a question in the House of Lords this afternoon
over whether or not the Republic would be given an enhanced role
This is an important point. I can confirm that the government remains
fully committed to the Belfast agreement, including the principle
of consent governing Northern Ireland's constitutional position.
It is on that basis that Northern Ireland is and remains a full part
of the United Kingdom, and clearly any form of joint authority would be
incompatible with the consent principle.
Thousands of teachers belonging to the Irish National Teachers
Organisation have held a half day strike over pay.
Around 800 schools across Northern Ireland
were affected, as our education correspondent
About 7,000 teachers in Northern Ireland have staged
Pickets, not parents or pupils, were at many school
The pain makes teachers feel valued, and at the moment we don't feel
valued. These INTO members in
Londonderry were also out, and angry about a pay freeze last year
and a 1% rise this year. My 1% equates to just over ?4. I
have a 12-year-old daughter. I've was to give her ?4 to go to the
cinema with her friends it would not even get her in. Some schools were
closed this morning, and in some cases schools have had to close for
the entire day. Back in Belfast, 300 teachers
held a strike rally. This is the point where we have to
stand up and say no more. We are not being walked on.
There were hard words for the education minister
What priorities are you placing on education? What priorities are you
placing on schools and children, and what priorities are you placing on
teachers? But the education boss
chairing pay talks There is no money in the education
budget to go back over previous pay negotiations. Given that we agreed
to meet again next week, I don't understand what benefit will
possibly be derived from striking today. What I do see is that
teachers will lose pay, schools will be disrupted, pupils will lose
education, and parents will have their lives disrupted and I am
disappointed about that. These teachers returned
to their classrooms at lunchtime, but with continued uncertainty over
the education budget, disputes over their pay are likely
to last much longer. One of the biggest personalities
in road racing, Guy Martin, is to return to both the NorthWest
200 and Ulster Grand Prix this year, One of the great draws in the sport,
he has not raced since suffering multiple injuries in a crash at
the Ulster Grand Prix two years ago. In the same year he was critical
of the Northwest 200 circuit. But, after announcing a new ride
with the Honda team, he's back. The last time Guy Martin raised in
Northern Ireland, this happened. It was a high-speed crash which made
him question his future in the sport. But he is returning with a
new team, and his first road racing appearance will be at the Northwest
200 in May, a race he said he did not ever want to compete in again
after his appearance in 2015. Riding round chicanes. I am bored to the
back teeth. No interest, no interest. No interest. But this is
the machine which has tempted him back. The new Honda 2017.
He will ride the Superbike at the fastest track in the world, where he
has won many times. And he will go in search of his first Northwest 200
success. The hugely popular rider will undoubtedly be a massive draw
for both events. Looking forward to it.
The Belfast boxer Michael Conlan has been speaking to
the press in New York ahead of his professional debut.
A former Olympic bronze medallist and amateur world champion,
Conlan outlined some grand ambitions as a pro.
He will fight the American Tim Ibarra on St Patrick's Day
at the iconic boxing venue Madison Square Garden.
It has been a dream for me to come here. I still feel a bit overwhelmed
being here in the garden, and for my debut to be on Saint Patrick stay
here is going to be special. The journey is a good one. I truly
believe in my ability will stop I speak with complete confidence at
all times. No matter who is in front of me, no matter what day it is, no
one is going to beat me. Ulster won't rest their Irish
international this weekend in their final European Rugby Champions Cup
tie against French side Bordeaux. The game is effectively
academic for Ulster, who can't now make the knockout
phases of the tournament. Eight defeats in the last 12 games
has certainly led to some reflection We have met as a player group, had a
view honest words together, things that we feel we have not been up to
scratch on, and what we are trying to fix in training. Like I said,
there has been a bit of honesty over last couple of weeks, and that is
the only way we can fix anything. That is something we have addressed.
In last night's Irish Premiership action Glenavon snatched a draw away
The home side took the lead with fifteen minutes to go
when Joshua McIlwaine headed in his third goal in two games.
But Glenavon equalised when player-manager Gary Hamilton,
who had come on off the bench, sent a shot that was deflected
into the net to rescue a point for the visitors who remain sixth
Ireland's men's cricket team have beaten the United Arab Emirates
by 24 runs in Dubai to reach the semi-final stage
Let's get the weather now. It is all very quiet and still and
settled. High-pressure is very much in charge. It will ensure a lot of
dry weather. We should see some bright spells developing, but there
will often be a lot of cloud, and it will become a little chilly. The
temperatures today were actually above average. Not very inspiring
whether beneath this swathe of stubborn cloud, so nice to see some
early spring colour that with a rhododendron coming into bloom. We
will hold onto those cloudy skies through this evening and into
tonight, perhaps giving the odd spot of drizzle, but most places will
avoid that. Into tomorrow, the cloud still the predominant feature, and
we still have a lot of dry weather to come. During the morning with
that low cloud, don't be surprised if you get the odd spot of drizzle.
Again, it is mainly dry. Then it is not really changing through the day.
Mainly cloudy. If you are in the West, a small chance you could see
the odd bit of brightness coming through late in the day, but it
can't began renting. At least those temperatures are above average at
eight or 9 degrees. Into Friday, it'll get off to a cloudy and misty
start, but Friday could be our best and brightest day of the next few. A
better chance of some sunshine coming through as well. Into the
weekend, we still have high in charge. It brings a drift of the
continent, which is pretty cold. The blue extends right down into Spain.
Instead of building sand castles in Alicante, the children have been
building snowmen on the beach. A trend is for damages to come down. A
lot of cloud through the weekend, but it stays mainly dry.
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