Belfast Telegraph

RHI scandal: Arlene Foster asked bank chiefs 'to look favourably' on finance requests from firms

By Rebecca Black

Arlene Foster is facing fresh calls to release all documents relating to the cash for ash scandal following the emergence of letters she wrote to a number of major banks.

The messages, which were signed by Mrs Foster in her previous role as Minister of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), were sent to the Northern Ireland chiefs of Ulster Bank, Danske Bank, Bank of Ireland, First Trust, HSBC, Barclays and Santander.

In them, Mrs Foster asked the banks to “look favourably” upon approaches from businesses seeking finance to install renewable technologies. “The government support on offer through the incentive schemes is reliable, long-term and offers a good return on investment,” she wrote.

“If you would find it useful, DETI officials would be happy to arrange a seminar for financial institutions to explain further the current and proposed financial mechanisms.

“Your support in working towards a more secure and sustainable energy future would be much appreciated.”

Two political parties last night expressed concerns at the revelation that Mrs Foster had promoted the scheme.

UUP MLA Steve Aiken said the Executive “needs to publish all material in relation to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme”. TUV leader Jim Allister, meanwhile called for a full judicial inquiry.

“With each new revelation, the need for a full judicial inquiry becomes more imperative,” he stressed.

It emerged earlier this year that the RHI programme, which was launched by DETI in November 2012 to encourage more people to invest in renewable energy technologies, was fundamentally flawed.

Under its terms, people who successfully applied were able to earn money for pointlessly burning fuel, without breaking the law while doing so.

Earlier this month former DETI minister Jonathan Bell dramatically made a number of shocking claims about how the scheme was handled in an explosive interview with the Stephen Nolan show.

Mr Bell has not commented on the issue since then, but he has indicated that he is considering taking legal action against Mrs Foster over comments she made in a responding interview on the shame show.

After the programme was aired, the SDLP put to the Assembly a no-confidence motion against Mrs Foster as First Minister, but it failed.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has previously called for her to step aside while an investigation is carried out into the RHI scheme.

The First Minister has also backed calls for an inquiry to be carried out.

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