Belfast Telegraph

Date set for first hearing of RHI inquiry

By Noel McAdam

The public investigation into the biggest financial scandal to hit Stormont is to get under way next week.

A preliminary hearing of the inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme will take place on Thursday at Parliament Buildings in Stormont. Chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin is to set out preparatory work already carried out by his team.

He will also give more details about how the inquiry is gathering evidence and will reveal the procedures under which the inquiry intends to operate.

It was former First Minister Arlene Foster's refusal to accede to Sinn Fein demands that she step aside for the duration of the inquiry that led to ex-Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness's decision to stand down, effectively collapsing the Assembly and leading to the current impasse.

Mrs Foster, under whose watch as Enterprise Minister the RHI scheme was launched, has predicted she will be vindicated by the inquiry.

But even if a deal to restore devolution could be achieved, Sinn Fein has insisted it will not form an Executive with Mrs Foster nominated again as First Minister.

Established in November 2012, the RHI scheme was an attempt to increase consumption of heat from renewable sources. It is now under the remit of the Department for the Economy.

But by 2016 Stormont officials calculated around £30m would have to come out of the block grant in 2016/17 to pay for the continuing implementation of the scheme.

As a result it was closed to new applications.

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