Belfast Telegraph

RHI scandal: Fears of backlash over plans to reveal ‘cash for ash’ names

By Jonny Bell

A Northern Ireland businessman fears "persecution" over Stormont plans to name those who availed of the Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI).

The man - who asked not to be named in print for fear his customers mistakenly believe he has made millions from the scheme - said it was sold to him on the basis he would have free heating for the next 20 years.

He said he paid out £60,000 of his own money to install a boiler to heat his petrol station, small supermarket and workshop. Based on the figures over the past year, he believed he would recoup £68,000 over the 20 year period of the scheme.

"But I would doubt it would last that long," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

The businessman said he has been dogged by trouble with his boiler since it was installed, and he has little faith it will last as long as the scheme intended.

He claimed it was sold to him on the basis that he could make a huge profit by using the system on a constant basis.

"But that to me was immoral," he said.

"No one has broken the law here. I applied for the scheme and use it legitimately, as have the majority of people, I believe.

"It is a very expensive way to heat a business. But they wanted you to take up a sustainable system and made it very attractive.

"Those that used and abused the system deserve to be hauled over the coals. But my fear is that we will all be tarred with the same brush and persecuted for using the scheme the way it was intended. I could be financially crucified," he added.

Running a family business, that's existed for almost six decades, he said he has never taken "a shilling" from the government.

The business owner said he has received a letter from the Department of Economy asking if he would object to his name being published as an RHI claimant for transparency reasons.

He said he objected to the request for fear of a backlash from his customers. "The last thing I want is my name published. No matter what I say, or if I publish all my invoices, the public will just think me a crook and I was getting a million out of it, when I have done nothing of the sort."

Meanwhile, the father-in-law of a DUP special advisor has said his son-in-law had no involvement in his decision to install two RHI boilers at his poultry farm.

Hugh Rutledge told Sunday Life he opted for the wood pellet boilers because they were "new technology" and that his son-in-law John Robinson "wouldn't have known what RHI boilers were".

Mr Rutledge owns Highgate Poultry Ltd, based near Newtownbutler, Fermanagh. The firm, which has assets worth over £1m, uses two RHI-funded boilers to heat three chicken sheds. He applied for the boilers in 2015.

Mr Robinson was a long-time director of communications for the DUP before he was made a special advisor to Economy Minister Simon Hamilton in June last year. Last week, Mr Robinson said his father-in-law bought the boilers before he was married in October 2015 and that he never discussed the sche me with his now father-in-law.

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