Belfast Telegraph

Inquiry into Stormont-toppling RHI scheme opens to public

By Rebecca Black

Almost a year after it collapsed Stormont, details of the 'cash for ash' scandal are set to be aired as the doors of the inquiry are opened to the public.

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme set up by then Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster in 2012 aimed to encourage businesses to invest in renewable energy boilers.

But it became mired in controversy when it emerged that a lack of caps on tariffs meant those on the scheme could make a profit just from burning wood pellets.

The row over how the scheme operated came amid allegations of conflicts of interest and led to the then Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigning, effectively collapsing the power sharing Executive.

An inquiry was announced in January by the then Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir and it then began its work on February 1.

It has sifted through more than one million pages of documents and more than 500 statutory notices have been issued to people and organisations, compelling the production of documents and witness statements, as part of a massive evidence-gathering process in preparation for the public hearings.

The hearings start today with an opening statement from the inquiry's chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin and will then hear from senior counsel to the inquiry David Scoffield QC, whose opening statement is expected to continue for most of the week.

He will set the scene for members of the public in order to help them understand what is likely to follow and the key issues which the inquiry will consider.

On Friday afternoon the inquiry will hear opening statements from core participants, including the departments for the Economy and Finance and energy regulator Ofgem.

More information about the inquiry can be found at www.rhiinquiry.org

Belfast Telegraph

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