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Assembly members back calls for RHI public inquiry

Claire Hanna presented a joint SDLP/UUP motion calling for a public inquiry into the RHI scandal. Picture by Matt Bohill

ASSEMBLY members have backed calls for a public inquiry into the cash-for-ash scandal.

MLAs from all the main parties apart from Sinn Féin yesterday discussed a joint UUP and SDLP motion.

Sinn Féin were absent from the debate.

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna presented the motion calling for a public inquiry, saying: "We need to start getting answers and we need people to understand that this assembly is more than a racket and a farce."

The DUP's Emma Little Pengelly hit back in the chamber at her party's critics.

"I am not corrupt and I am not arrogant. I honestly know that my colleagues are not arrogant and corrupt either," she said.

Former enterprise minister Jonathan Bell, who was suspended by the DUP last month after he claimed special advisers sought to delay his plans to cut the cost of the scheme, made further allegations about the initiative.

He claimed in the assembly on Monday that he had been told he would not be allowed to reduce RHI tariffs because party advisers Timothy Johnston and John Robinson had extensive interests in the poultry industry.

Both men have denied the claims.

Mr Bell said he was prepared to repeat the allegations to a judge-led inquiry and claimed one DUP special adviser might have up to eight boilers - a claim the party described as "outrageous".

During the debate justice minister Claire Sugden insisted she could not instigate an inquiry.

MLAs later voted in favour of a public inquiry.

Stormont's Public Accounts Committee, meanwhile, is to return to its probe into the botched scheme at a meeting this morning.

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