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RHI fiasco: Minister Hamilton pledges to name firms benefiting from energy scheme

By Adrian Rutherford

A list of businesses that benefited from the Renewable Heat Incentive, will be revealed in the coming days.

Economy Minister, Simon Hamilton, said details would be published next Wednesday.

Mr Hamilton said there was a need for "complete openness and transparency" around the scheme and the naming of those who had benefited.

But he was last night accused of caving into public pressure by Sinn Fein, who questioned why the list would not be made public for another week.

Some biomass boiler owners are opposed to their names being published.

Earlier this month, the Information Commissioner's Office - an independent UK-wide body that deals with data protection legislation issues - said there were times when personal details could be made public.

Mr Hamilton said: "I believe that it is absolutely imperative that there is complete openness and transparency around the RHI scheme, and particularly in respect of the naming of businesses benefiting from the scheme.

"It has always been my intention to publish this information.

"However, I have equally always been mindful that I can only do so in accordance with my legal obligations."

Mr Hamilton said officials from the Department for the Economy had written to all recipients indicating their details would be published.

"The department is currently analysing the responses received and are following a clear process as required under section 10 of the 1998 Data Protection Act," he added.

"The process will balance the competing interests of transparency and the right to privacy and protection in accordance with the law. I anticipate that the process will be concluded by the beginning of next week and it would be my intention to publish RHI recipient details on Wednesday, January 25."

Sinn Fein claimed Mr Hamilton had bowed to public pressure on publishing the names of the beneficiaries.

Conor Murphy also said postponing publication until January 25 smacked of a DUP effort to frustrate proper scrutiny of the list of RHI beneficiaries.

Mr Murphy said: "Sinn Fein has called for the names of the beneficiaries of the RHI scheme to be published immediately by the DUP economy minister.

"In the light of ongoing revelations around the DUP's handling of the RHI scheme, the public want to know are there any conflicts of interest as a result of family, business or political connections?

"Simon Hamilton has at long last bowed to public pressure and committed to releasing the names of beneficiaries.

"However, he has put back publication of the list to January 25, in what looks like an effort to avoid proper scrutiny."

Mr Murphy said there was a public demand for full transparency and accountability around the RHI scheme.

He added: "An independent investigation is the best way to achieve this.

"The DUP have acted with arrogance and contempt for the public throughout the RHI debacle."

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