RHI inquiry: Sinn Féin's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and DUP's Simon Hamilton to attend inquiry

Sinn Féin's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and the DUP's Simon Hamilton
Brendan Hughes

TWO former Stormont executive ministers are to appear before the RHI inquiry in what is scheduled to be its final week of oral hearings.

Sinn Féin MLA and former finance minister Máirtín ÓMuilleoir, and DUP assembly member and ex-economy minister Simon Hamilton, will attend the inquiry on Tuesday.

They were ministers when the RHI controversy was exposed in 2016, leading to the collapse of the executive early last year and the continued absence of devolved government.

David Sterling, interim head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service (HOCS), and senior Stormont official Andrew McCormick will return to give further evidence.

Dermot Nolan, chief executive of energy regulator Ofgem which administered the RHI scheme, will also return to the inquiry next week.

The inquiry will also hear next Friday from ex-HOCS Malcolm McKibbin, who is due to be the inquiry's final witness in public hearings.

Public evidence sessions are scheduled to be completed next Friday.

Two days in December have been set aside for legal submissions, after which inquiry chair Sir Patrick Coghlin and his panel will retire to prepare their report.

No date has been fixed for publication, but there is speculation that a final report could be completed by spring 2019.

Launched in 2012, the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) was designed to encourage businesses to switch from burning fossil fuels to more sustainable alternatives.

But the subsidies were worth more than the cost of wood pellets, encouraging firms to 'burn to earn'.

Delays in introducing cost controls brought a spike in applications and pushed the multi-million-pound government scheme hugely over budget.

The inquiry will hear today from Kieran Donnelly, head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office, which first exposed the RHI scandal.

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