Northern Ireland news

Conor Murphy first to face RHI report fall-out

Conor Murphy will face MLAs' questions relating to the findings of the RHI inquiry

CONOR Murphy is so far the only executive minister scheduled to face MLAs' questions relating to the findings of the RHI inquiry.

The finance minister, whose predecessor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir commissioned Sir Patrick Coghlin's inquiry in January 2017, will be questioned on the report in the assembly chamber on Monday March 16.

The report will be published three days previously on the afternoon of Friday March 13.

The Irish News revealed last week that First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill will be in the United States for the annual St Patrick's Day celebrations when the report is released.

It has emerged that they have cancelled the New York leg of their US visit due to attend emergency meetings about coronavirus but are still due to go to Washington later next week.

Economy minister Diane Dodds will represent the executive in New York.

Ms O'Neill had been scheduled to face questions on behalf of the Executive Office on the Monday after the report's publication but she is no longer available on that date due to her travel arrangements.

Earlier this week, Mrs Foster said MLAs would have "ample opportunity" to ask questions about the RHI inquiry's report, though she is not expected to take part in ministers' questions until the end of the month.

Up to three hours have been set aside for the finance minister to field assembly questions.

SDLP finance spokesman Matthew O'Toole said it is important that MLAs are given the opportunity to thoroughly explore the report's findings.

"There must be proper time set aside for the assembly to robustly question the relevant ministers, especially those who were key players in the RHI scandal, on the findings of the Coghlin report," he said.

"We will not restore trust in the institutions without robustly investigating the conduct which led to their collapse three years ago."

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