DUP’s unacceptable silence on RHI

Posted By: December 22, 2016

Irish News (Belfast)  Editorial. Thursday, December 22, 2016

There will inevitably be considerable skepticism over suggestions that the Stormont executive is drawing up plans for the complete closure of its disastrous Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

Reports yesterday indicated that one option is to buy out the contracts of RHI beneficiaries who are due to receive subsidy payments for the next 20 years.

However, ministers will need to provide firm assurances that the shambolic project, which is already facing a £400m overspend, can be phased out in a way which will significantly reduce the final bill.

If public confidence is to be restored in the short term, a much simpler approach would be for the DUP to finally disclose whether any of its elected representatives are personally benefiting from the debacle.

Just over a week ago, this newspaper asked all the Stormont parties if they had connections to either the highly contentious non-domestic RHI scheme or its less generous domestic counterpart.

Every group apart from one provided swift and appropriate responses, with Sinn Féin acknowledging that the brother of one MLA was a domestic claimant, the SDLP reporting that the brother of a councillor had also made a successful application, and the Ulster Unionists, Alliance, Greens, People Before Profit and the TUV all declaring no links.

The total silence from the DUP was striking and will only add to the perception that serious questions need to be answered about the role of a number of party members and their close relatives.

Well before any wider investigation gets under way, the DUP should take the opportunity to offer an early and straightforward clarification of its position on this key issue.