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RHI a scandal that must be put to bed

Editor's Viewpoint

Many people will be astounded to learn from our report today that applications to join the discredited RHI scheme in its uncapped form are still being processed. If approved, the applicants will be entitled to receive the highest rate of remuneration.

The heating scheme is a debacle that helped force this latest Assembly election and has put devolution in doubt, at least in the immediate future.

It seems there is no end to disquieting information about the scheme, with new revelations practically every day.

Other reports suggest that some RHI boilers are pumping out heat 24 hours a day, helping to drive up the money spent on the scheme to date to £68m.

It is a scheme that keeps on giving, not only huge bonuses to those who signed up before a cap was put on payments, but also information that contributes to public concern over the competence of many of those associated with the scheme in its development and in efforts to close down an overspend projected to reach £495m over 20 years.

A resolution to the problems of RHI is unlikely to emerge soon. The forthcoming election has delayed the inquiry into the scheme and the hustings are likely to be filled with claim and counter-claim over who was to blame for the fiasco, further obscuring the facts and leading to even greater public cynicism.

It will feed into the public perception that our politicians are unable to adequately resolve any crisis without bringing the institutions of government to their knees.

Thanks to the falling-out between Sinn Fein and the DUP, sparked by the RHI controversy but revealing a deeper animosity between the so-called partners in government, an already bad situation has become worse and money continues to flow out of the public purse.

Perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of the forthcoming election is that the same two major parties are likely to be returned as potential partners in government, but are unlikely to agree to perform that role.

The chances of them settling their differences after a toxic election campaign recede with each passing day, which could very well mean a period of direct rule.

This has been a bad period for politics here, unusually not caused by constitutional issues or acts of terrorism, but by the mishandling of a scheme good in intent but shambolic in delivery. And still the fires keep burning.

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