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RHI inquiry prepares for final days of closing submissions

Former minister Jonathan Bell has told the inquiry that speaking out about RHI cost him his career.

A lawyer for Arlene Foster has said it will be for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) inquiry to determine the impact of a "lack of ministerial input" on key issues.

The inquiry into the renewable heating scandal will hold three days of closing hearings this week.

The legal submission from Ms Foster's lawyer Julie Ellison is one of 16 published last night by the inquiry.

Ms Ellison, said the inquiry team would have to determine whether, given that certain issues were not raised with her, Mrs Foster "was in a position to have done anything differently" to avoid the disastrous outcome.

The former First Minister's defence to criticism has been that many issues were not brought to her, nor was she asked for a decision on them by civil servants.

The inquiry will sit for the final time on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week to hear closing arguments before the three-member panel, headed up by Sir Patrick Coghlin, retires to consider its findings.

DUP advisor Andrew Crawford, who the inquiry was told was allegedly at the heart of attempts to frustrate the introduction of cost controls, has again denied that he had any such role.

However, in his latest published submission he apologises for other failings, including sending confidential government documents to family members who were beneficiaries of the scheme.

Former DUP minister Jonathan Bell, who made a number of allegations in a BBC interview with Stephen Nolan prior to the inquiry, claims he had decided to speak to the media to protect the public finances.

Adding that he had "paid a heavy price" for that decision and that he had been "disparaged and demonised" for the interview which had cost him his career.

The RHI scheme was set up in 2012 to boost uptake of environmentally friendly heat systems but a number of failing and the offer of huge subsidies led to a potential bill of £490m for Northern Ireland taxpayers and the lead to the collapse of the power sharing executive in January 2017.

The inquiry into the scandal is likely publish its findings at some stage in 2019.

Read more: BBC claims DUP declined chance to see Jonathan Bell's RHI interview ahead of Arlene Foster's grilling

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