RHI Inquiry: O Muilleoir says there must be no hiding place
The former Sinn Fein finance minister who ordered the inquiry into the controversial Renewable Heat Incentive says he hopes it will give "no hiding place to guilty parties".
As public hearings began at Stormont yesterday, Mairtin O Muilleoir said the inquiry would shine a light on the corruption allegations which helped bring down the Executive.
"As the minister who established the RHI Inquiry, I am pleased to see the public hearings getting under way," he said.
"It was my intention that this would be an inquiry which would afford no hiding place to the guilty parties and shine a light in the dark corners of alleged corruption.
"Getting to the truth of the RHI scandal will not be easy but the public needs to know why money which could have been spent on building schools, employing nurses and funding libraries was instead squandered on the cash for ash scheme."
Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken said RHI was the biggest financial scandal in Northern Ireland's history. "The allegations go right to the heart of politics and how Northern Ireland has been governed," he commented.
"The public deserve to know the truth and see those responsible held accountable.
"It is high time that we heard directly from those who conceived, administered and oversaw the scheme.
"The inquiry must get to the bottom of what went so badly wrong and who was responsible.
"There should be no hiding place for anyone found to be at fault."
TUV leader Jim Allister said: "I welcome the opening of the inquiry. It is good to see proceedings get started. I hope that the truth will come out without fear or favour."
SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley said proceedings must uncover the truth about how so much public money was put in jeopardy.
"It feels like a political lifetime ago and is scarcely remembered in public debate but the RHI scheme scandal is the reason we no longer have power-sharing institutions; such was the scale of the alleged wrongdoing," she said. Ms Bradley recounted how a public inquiry was initially resisted by some and was called after weeks of pressure from the SDLP and others.
"It is critical now that the inquiry is allowed to get to the truth of what went wrong with the RHI scheme, why cost controls were stripped from the Northern Ireland scheme, who knew about it and when," she continued.
"The taxpayer bill for the out of control scheme is now estimated to run to £700m.
"This is the biggest financial scandal in the history of devolution. It cannot be relegated to a footnote in the last Executive's epitaph. Taxpayers deserve the truth and for those responsible to be held to account."
People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll said: "I hope that this inquiry will be a proper investigation into RHI and that nothing is swept under the carpet.
"We must follow where the evidence leads and anyone found to have acted wrongly should be held to account.
"This inquiry must not be a matter of going through the motions."