Belfast Telegraph

RHI boiler owners' list rules out high-profile connections, says BBC's Stephen Nolan

Broadcaster threatened with injunction over release of list

The list of those claiming off the botched Renewable Heating Incentive scheme appears to rule out high-profile political connections, BBC broadcaster Stephen Nolan has said.

On Thursday morning the Radio Ulster presenter revealed he had been leaked the full list of the 1,946 businesses claiming from the seriously flawed green energy scheme and for the past week had been contacting some of those on it to ask them to explain their claims.

"And what's interesting about this list," he told his listeners.

"Some of the more high-profile rumours that have been circulating - actually the list rules some of those rumours out.

"There are some high-profile rumours that have been going about, where there have been things suggested about people connected to certain parties or that are connected elsewhere and when I look at that list, I don't see any wrongdoing."

RHI boiler owners threatened the presenter with legal action when he informed them he was in possession of the list in order to prevent its publication.

Owners are locked in a legal battle with Stormont's Department of Economy over the publication of their names. A judge has put in place a temporary order banning the department from publishing the list, however, that does not include any media organisation from publishing it.

Despite this Mr Nolan said he would not be publishing saying his team and the BBC "respect the judiciary".

"There is a court order in place," he said, "and we will respect the judiciary and nothing we would do would be contrary to a judge's ruling.

"We are acting in the public interest and we will not contravene a court order and that judge deserves ultimate respect for what he does."

Mr Nolan said he had a list of nearly 2,000 RHI boiler owners that as well as including names also detailed what type of boiler they had and how much they claimed. The broadcaster said he and his team had been trying to contact some of those on the list for the past week.

He also revealed that a small number of companies, registered as dormant, have been making large claims from the scheme.

One business, Nolan said had claimed over £75,000 since October 2015 but had been officially registered as dormant for all of 2015 and for part of 2016.

Another claimed over £239,000 but had been registered as dormant for 2015 and 2016 meaning it could only have been active for 10 months of the scheme.

When asked to explain the claims all the Nolan Show got in return from the companies was a copy of the injunction against the government threatening legal action.

The Renewable Heating Association, which represents almost 500 RHI claimants, would not comment on the injunction matter.

Michael Doran, who heads the association does not own a boiler or claim from the scheme.

He said he was not in possession of the list Mr Nolan had.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "The Renewable Heating Association has been saying that the sooner audits are carried out of all claimants the better.

"We are not in a position to determine if any of our 500 members are acting improperly but we are looking to address this through audits to determine what claimants received.

"We do not have the list the Stephen Nolan show has.

"So we are acting blind trying to assess our members. But that is what we are trying to do and that will take time."

Alliance South Antrim candidate David Ford said an urgent investigation was needed.

He said: “The current Economy Minister Simon Hamilton should have released details of claimants last December. There is no excuse for him waiting until court injunctions were sought and claiming he wants the information published."

The Renewable Heating Incentive Scheme was an attempt to encourage the growth of sustainable fuel in businesses, however serious flaws meant firms could claim vast sums of money for using the boilers. Auditors found an empty shed had been heated just to claim from the scheme.

A public inquiry has been opened into the scheme.

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