Northern Ireland news

RHI inquiry report 'expected in November'

Retired appeal court judge Sir Patrick Coghlin opening the RHI inquiry in 2017. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

THE RHI inquiry is expected to publish its long-anticipated findings in November.

The probe into the green energy scandal which prompted the collapse of devolved government began in 2017 and public evidence sessions finished about a year ago.

A post-summer publication of inquiry chair Sir Patrick Coghlin's report had previously been speculated, but it is now expected to be released in November.

However, an inquiry spokesman yesterday said that "no date has been set".

Launched by DUP leader Arlene Foster in 2012 when she was enterprise minister, the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive was intended 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 scheme hugely over budget.

Read More: RHI report will 'strongly criticise some people', inquiry chair warns

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness triggered Stormont's collapse by resigning as deputy first minister in January 2017, citing the DUP's handling of the growing controversy.

When the inquiry was later launched by then finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, the Sinn Féin MLA said he hoped a report would be delivered within six months.

RHI boiler owners have since had their subsidies significantly reduced, but this is being challenged in the courts.

Sir Patrick Coghlin, chair of the RHI inquiry

Following the end of public evidence sessions last year, the inquiry has had some supplementary evidence gathering through written submissions.

Those singled out for criticism have also had the opportunity to respond ahead of publication through a representations process.

The inquiry heard of a litany of flaws in how RHI was devised, operated and managed, as well as claims over the impact and influence of DUP ministers' special advisers.

Its findings are expected to pile further pressure on efforts to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

A spokesman for the inquiry yesterday said: "The chairman is still compiling his report and no date has been set for its publication."

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