Thursday, October 5, 2017

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RHI – Repugnant, Heinous, Invidious

Brian Horner has something to say about the fall out from the RHI Scandal. Brian Horner has a background in the education sector and is now retired in the Portstewart area.

In Hamlet, Marcellus, an officer of the palace guard, seeing the ghost of the dead king walking over the palace walls, observes, ‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’.

Fast forward a few hundred years and transpose the action to the deserted Assembly at Stormont. It isn’t too difficult to imagine those words being repeated on the hill today.

Repugnant. Heinous. Invidious. Yes, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme is certainly all that.

And now that the start of a public inquiry, chaired by Sir Patrick Coghlin, has been delayed for a month, some are wondering if something more sinister is at play here? Could this delay be setting the scene for the announcement of a settlement that will let the DUP off the hook?

Compounding these suspicions is the news that DUP leader and former first minister Arlene Foster has been given special rights at the inquiry. The "enhanced participatory rights" mean she has special access to witness statements.

So how has one of the biggest financial scandals since the formation of Northern Ireland been put on the back burner by the media, political commentators and political parties, while tax payers continue to foot the bill of a possible £1.2billion?

Those in Northern Ireland that signed up to the RHI scheme and were approved could pocket £160 for every £100 they spent on renewable fuels, such as wood pellets.

This means that an initiative that was meant to cost £25 million over five years will now cost £1.15 billion over 20 years, with the breakdown of money being covered by Treasury to the sum of £660 million, with Stormont landed with the remaining £490 million to pay.

Johnathan Bell, formerly of the DUP, was suspended in December 2016 for speaking to the press about the RHI scandal without party permission.

Mr Bell said he had been prevented from closing the RHI scheme by DUP special advisers, whom it later emerged may have had other reasons for wanting to keep the scheme open.

Bell went on to claim on The Nolan Show that a senior civil servant in the Economy Department told him that had the special advisers not interfered then the cost of the scheme could have been halved – Yes. You’ve read that correctly, halved.

He also told the public that he wrote to DUP leader Arlene Foster in March 2016 to tell her that special advisers were saying that the scheme be kept open and to outline a number of difficulties, but she refused to take the advice on-board – this was then described by Former DUP MLA David McIlveen as the RHI "omnishambles". He said at the time (January 2017) Ms Foster has "seriously misjudged" public anger over her parties handling of the RHI scheme.

The names at the centre of this continuing omnishambles are: Timothy Johnston (now DUP Chief Executive), John Robinson, Andrew Crawford, Stephen Brimstone and Timothy Cairns. These individuals all have one thing in common, they are all linked to the DUP.

Why aren’t the roles of these individuals made clear to us? Most of all, why are tax payers paying their legal fees of up to £200 per day, whilst some of them (if not all) are befitting from the RHI scheme?

Sir Patrick Coghlin has assured us (the public) that there will be a "detailed and intensive" investigation into the RHI fiasco. This is what we all want, but could anyone in the political or journalistic sphere give us an insight as to where this is all at?

Is there not a story in the fact that the benefactors of the RHI scheme could be getting their legal fees paid by the tax payer?

The delayed investigation is no excuse for the media or political commentators to shelve the story; tax payers’ anger shouldn’t be turned on and off at the whim of the media’s agenda.

We need to know where our hard-earned money is going. We need answers, but who will ask the questions on our behalf?

And the sooner the better.


➽Follow Brian Horner on Twitter @OtherBench    

3 comments :

AM said...

Good piece Brian, probing where it is needed.

Thanks for posting it here

Niall said...

Sf have fairly quietened down on RHI and Foster standing aside....they'll get off, it's a cert.

James Quigley said...

This is typical of the political system and those taking part, say nothing and keep your head down until the bruhaha dies down. It is also typical of the media who rather talk about a cold and coughing speech of the British Tory leader than say her part in paying off the DUP.

Also take the so called south we have had numerous tribunals, into double figures I believe, and not a dirty dish washed yet.