Firms covered by temporary injunction banning naming of RHI claimants

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has again declined to state whether he intends to name RHI claimants not covered by the court order. Picture by Mal McCann

BUSINESSES are covered by a temporary ban on revealing the identities of boiler operators claiming under the RHI scheme, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Deeny confirmed the continued prohibition extends to all members of a group taking legal action to stop Economy Minister Simon Hamilton publishing a list of those on the botched scheme.

His order will remain in place until the outcome of a challenge listed for hearing in three weeks time.

A final judgment in the case is expected to be delivered before the Assembly elections on March 2.

The Department for the Economy again declined to comment on Tuesday on whether the minister intends to publish the names of the majority of claimants - around 1,500 - who are not covered by the injunction.

More than 500 members of the Renewable Heat Association (RHA) have been granted leave to seek a judicial review of Mr Hamilton's plans to name them.

Their lawyers claim it would create a media "feeding frenzy" and threaten the reputation of individuals who have done nothing wrong.

The flawed RHI scheme, which could end up costing the public purse up to £490m, was a major factor behind Stormont's collapse and snap elections being called.

A public inquiry into the scheme is to be chaired by retired appeal court judge Sir Patrick Coghlin.

Judicial review proceedings against the plans to name recipients were issued by Michael Doran, chairman of the RHA.

Mr Doran, who also heads up the group Action Renewables, does not have a boiler and receives no subsidies under the scheme.

He is representing hundreds of non-domestic operators, including poultry and mushroom producers, who had already secured an interim injunction to prevent their identities being revealed.

The order covers all those who were members of the RHA at 5pm last Tuesday.

But lawyers returned to court yesterday amid a dispute over whether the order should cover firms as well as individuals within the RHA.

Gerald Simpson QC, for Mr Doran, argued that all business members should be covered by the temporary anonymity.

He insisted that publishing corporate participants would lead to the identification of individuals - either through the name of the firm or by checking with Companies House.

It was revealed in court that an updated spreadsheet of those in the RHA details 630 separate boilers.

Mr Justice Deeny was told 350 entries relate to individuals, with the rest associated with limited companies.

Tony McGleenan QC, responding for the department, claimed companies cannot expect a right to privacy.

But deciding to continue the interim order, the judge said: "There's a temporary inconvenience to the minister by imposing the injunction, but it protects the contractual rights of the applicants."

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