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RHI public inquiry could be delayed by two month summer court recess

Public hearings for the RHI Public Inquiry are to be held in Stormont's Senate Chamber. Picture by Michael Cooper
Gareth McKeown

It was unclear last night if the public inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme could be stalled in the summer due to the traditional court break.

The length of time the inquiry takes could be critical in efforts to form a government, with Sinn Féin insisting it will not support DUP leader Arlene Foster for the first minister position until she is cleared by the inquiry.

Asked if the RHI inquiry would sit through the summer, a spokesman said: "I can provide no details of the timescale for Inquiry hearings. Staff are entitled to take leave but this will not determine our future programme."

In line with the rules of the Northern Ireland Court of Judicature 1980 the High Court and the Court of Appeal will rise for a 'Long Vacation' from Monday July 3 to September 4, 2017.

There are also three further scheduled breaks in this calendar year, including an 'Easter Recess' next month from April 10 to April 21, a 'Halloween Recess' from October 30 to November 3 and a 'Christmas Recess' which runs from December 22, 2017 to January 5, 2018.

Chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin has already confirmed this week that a report will not be delivered within six months.

“I cannot, at this early stage of the investigation, give a date by which our work will be complete. At present I can say that it will not be possible to report within six months,” the judge said.

The senior judge has been unable to state when public hearings will start, but has indicated that a preliminary public hearing will be held “in the course of April”.

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