Northern Ireland news

Key dates in the RHI scandal

Brendan Hughes

November 2012: The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Deti), headed by the DUP's Arlene Foster, launches the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

September 8 2015: The DUP's Jonathan Bell, then enterprise minister, announces plans to cap subsidies for applicants to the RHI scheme.

November 18 2015: The cost controls are introduced. The period beforehand between September and November saw a huge spike in RHI applications.

February 5 2016: The date announced by Mr Bell for the RHI scheme to close to new applicants.

February 29 2016: The actual date the RHI scheme closed. The RHI inquiry heard Mrs Foster as first minister had requested a short extension to account for the "needs of industry".

July 5 2016: Northern Ireland Audit Office publishes a damning report exposing the scale of the problems with the RHI scheme, concluding that it had "serious systematic weaknesses from the start".

September 14: Stormont's public accounts committee begins an inquiry into the RHI scheme.

December 6 2016: A BBC Spotlight programme reports on the RHI controversy, including details that whistleblower warnings were not acted upon.

December 15 2016: In a BBC Nolan Show interview, Mr Bell alleges two DUP special advisers (Spads), Timothy Johnston and Andrew Crawford, intervened to delay the introduction of cost controls in autumn 2015. He also claimed Mrs Foster "overruled" his bid to finally close the botched scheme in early 2016.

January 9 2017: Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness resigns as deputy first minister, citing the DUP's handling of the RHI scandal. His resignation triggers the collapse of the Stormont executive.

January 24 2017: Amid pressure from political opponents to call a public inquiry, Sinn Féin finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir announces a public inquiry will be held into the RHI scheme. He later says he expects it to report its findings within six months.

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