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DUP Foyle MLA Gary Middleton has called on Sinn Fein to ‘be straight’ with the public after it emerged that three Sinn Fein offices received payments under the Executive’s £10,000 Business Support Grant Scheme.

Commenting, Mr Middleton:

‘‘This turn of events is shocking but not surprising given Sinn Fein’s track record of speaking out of both sides of their mouth when demanding honesty and integrity.

Registration for the Business Support Grant Scheme closed on 20 May. It is unacceptable and unjustifiable that this money is only now being repaid several months later.

We are still in the dark as to exactly when Sinn Fein representatives found out about the error. The public are rightly questioning whether the cash would have been returned at all had media spotlight not been shone in their direction.

Sinn Fein have attempted to deflect blame by citing problems with the system used to return unnecessary payments. Yet it is their own Minister Conor Murphy that is ultimately responsible for the LPS ratings that led to these awards. He should explain exactly what went wrong in the roll out of this scheme.

It is also curious that despite LPS officials giving evidence to the Finance Committee as recently as last week, Maolíosa McHugh, one of the Sinn Fein MLAs allegedly in receipt of this money, was silent on his own experience of problems returning payments.

I will be writing to the new Assembly Standards Commissioner to ask her to investigate statements by Maolíosa McHugh to establish whether he has breached the Code of Conduct in his handling of these issues. We will also be submitting questions to the relevant departments to establish when exactly these three £10,000 sums paid into Sinn Fein bank accounts were returned.

It is time for Sinn Fein to be straight with the public about its knowledge and response to these issues. At a time when many businesses are fighting to survive the integrity of the public purse is of paramount importance.’’