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RHI inquiry issues 150 summonses

By Noel McAdam

The inquiry into Stormont's 'cash for ash' scandal has sent out 150 writs for witnesses and evidence - 25 more than was first suggested.

The last are due to be delivered by the end of this week.

The inquiry has also confirmed its conclusions will be made public, even if Stormont has not been restored by the time of its report.

Former First Minister Arlene Foster's refusal to accede to Sinn Fein demand that she step aside for the duration of an inquiry led to the late former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness' decision to stand down, collapsing the Assembly and leading to the current impasse.

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

But even if a deal to restore devolution is achieved in the weeks following the general election, 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.

Under the botched terms of the scheme, users were paid £1.60 for every £1 worth of wood pellets burnt. It was closed in November 2015.

It landed the Executive with an estimated £490m bill over the next 20 years.

Two weeks ago inquiry chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin said individuals and organisations had been served with official notices - and been warned they must make "the fullest possible disclosure of relevant documentation and information".

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