Northern Ireland

Explosive RHI report set for February release

RHI Inquiry chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin. Picture Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
RHI Inquiry chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin. Picture Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

SIR Patrick Coghlin's long-awaited report into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal looks set to published next month, The Irish News understands.

Work on compiling the report and considering responses from those it will criticise is understood to have been completed.

The inquiry's findings may well destabilise Stormont's power-sharing executive, which has only been restored for a matter of days.

January 19 marks three years since the then Stormont finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir established the public inquiry into the RHI scheme, which at the time was forecast to cost in the region of £700m.

The Sinn Féin MLA said at the time that he hoped a report would be delivered within six months.

So-called Maxwell letters, which notify those facing criticism in Sir Partick's report, were sent out last autumn, paving the way for publication.

However, plans to release the inquiry team's much-anticipated report were though to have been delayed by the Westminster election and the Stormont negotiations.

The inquiry's evidence sessions ran from November 2017 to December 2018 and heard from a range of politicians, including DUP leader Arlene Foster, former economy minister Jonathan Bell and Mr Ó Muilleoir, who has since stepped down as an MLA.

Former DUP special advisers Andrew Crawford, Tim Cairns, Timothy Johnston and John Robinson also gave oral evidence, as did a number of government officials.

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

The inquiry was established to investigate and report on scheme's original design and implementation, its initial operation, and the circumstances relating to the imposition of cost controls in the scheme in late 2015, as well as the circumstances relating to the suspension of the scheme to new applicants in early 2016.

A spokesman for the inquiry declined to comment on a publication date.