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Editor's Viewpoint

Given abject failure of our politicians and officials over RHI, can we really rely on them to handle the coronavirus crisis?

Editor's Viewpoint


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Copies of the published report from the RHI Inquiry outside Stormont

Copies of the published report from the RHI Inquiry outside Stormont

PA

Copies of the published report from the RHI Inquiry outside Stormont

It is a moot point whether we should be comforted by the finding of the inquiry into the RHI scandal that it did not involve corruption, but was due to a mixture of incompetence, lack of attention to detail and one or two instances of unacceptable behaviour.

Perhaps it was because of the day that was in it and our concerns over coronavirus, but Sir Patrick Coghlin's 656-page report was something of an anti-climax. Ultimately, there was criticism of how practically everyone involved in the cash-for-ash scheme had piled error on top of error, but even that was more muted than anticipated.

Three years ago it was a scandal which was on everyone's lips, and which led to the previous administration collapsing and a lengthy political stasis. That in turn has led to a deterioration of our health service, education and infrastructure in particular due to the lack of political decision-making.

The Civil Service, which bears much of the criticism in the report - officials in DETI certainly did not cover themselves in glory in overseeing the creation of the RHI scheme - were left to virtually run the province, and went some way to redeeming their previous failings.

First Minister Arlene Foster must be glad that she escapes with a mild slap on the wrist for not reading the details of the scheme before presenting it to the Executive - surely one of her key roles, especially given the eye-watering sums of money involved. Thankfully, a whistleblower on the outside was able to point out the fundamental flaws in the scheme. Given that a similar scheme had already been established in England and Wales, the incompetence of officials, energy experts and politicians in following that template almost beggars belief. What is worrying is that if they could not do something that simple, how will they tackle the coronavirus crisis currently affecting us?

Do we really have faith that they can get fully across a brief, which is changing almost by the hour, and devise action plans to cope with a crisis of which there is no previous experience?

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