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RHI: Sinn Féin now calls for a public inquiry into controversial heating scheme

Mairtin Ó Muilleoir has now called for a public inquiry into the RHI scheme

SINN Féin's finance minister Mairtin O Muilleoir has ordered a public inquiry into the controversial Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme in order to "get to the truth".

And the DUP Spad (special adviser) at the centre of the RHI scandal, Dr Andrew Crawford, has also resigned, his party leader Arlene Foster confirmed.

RHI is predicted to cost taxpayers up to £490 million over the next 20 years.

It precipitated the collapse of Stormont powersharing.

Mr O Muilleoir said: "This inquiry will be impartial and objective. I will not interfere in its work. It will be tasked to get to the truth of this issue."

He added that the inquiry report must go to the finance minister.

"I give a commitment that I or any Sinn Féin minister will release the report in full to the public on receipt" he said/

"I call on all parties to sign up to unrestricted, unedited publication.

"I am aware that the RHI issue goes beyond financial matters to questions of governance and probity.

"By getting to the truth of the RHI scandal, this inquiry report will, I believe, address those wider issues, and, therefore, put the public first."

Secretary of State James Brokenshire welcomed the news that a public inquiry into RHI would go ahead.
He saidL “I believe that this is important to build confidence in the ability of the institutions to deliver and help set the tone for the election to come.”
“I would encourage full co-operation with the inquiry, and hope that it is able quickly and effectively to establish the facts, and provide assurances to the public.  For our part, the Government will do everything we can to support this independent inquiry.”

Voters in Northern Ireland are set to go to the polls on March 2 after deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned in protest over the flawed scheme.

The money was designed to encourage businesses to use green energy instead of fossil fuels but ended up paying out around £1.60 for every £1 spent on wood to fuel biomass boilers.

There have been allegations of empty sheds being heated in a "cash for ash" scandal.

A call for a public inquiry was backed by the devolved Assembly earlier this week.

Mr O Muilleoir said: "It is clear that, with time short until the Assembly dissolves, the only way to serve the public interest is for me as Finance Minister to move to institute a public enquiry immediately. No other type of investigation is now feasible given time pressures.

"I have now instructed officials to take the necessary steps to establish a public enquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 into the RHI scheme."

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