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Update on RHI public inquiry due 'end of this week'

Former finance minister Mairtin O'Muilleoir said he hoped a report into RHI would be delivered "within six months". Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Gareth McKeown

An update on the progress of the public inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme is due later this week.

The former Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said in the Assembly on January 24 that an inquiry into the botched green energy scheme would begin work on February 1 and that he hoped the report would be delivered "within six months".

Six weeks on and details on when this will take place and in what form have yet to be released, with fears the work could drag into 2018.

Former Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has ordered inspections of Renewable Heat Incentive scheme sites to begin in May in an attempted crackdown on abuse of the scheme, according to the BBC.

The cost of inspections has previously been estimated at £2m. The tender for the check-up programme will be advertised shortly. 

A spokesperson for the inquiry has said its website will go live "by the end of this week" and the chairman Patrick Coghlin will then provide details on how the inquiry will proceed.

"The website will include a statement by the chairman and we do not intend to comment further in advance of this," a spokesman said.

Two weeks ago a spokesman for the inquiry team said preparatory work had still to be completed.

"The Inquiry is currently in the process of making appointments and addressing the numerous practical details of establishing a public inquiry. Once this preparatory work has been completed, the chairman will make a statement explaining how he intends to proceed," he said at the time.

Ulster Unionist economy spokesman Steve Aiken said the party wants to see the Public Inquiry on RHI report "as soon as possible".

"However, Sir Patrick Coghlin must be allowed to do his job without political interference," he said.

"Given the financial consequences of RHI, the questions about who exactly knew what and when need answered conclusively without reference to any individual's political future."

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