Sinn Fein’s RHI plan would see the first report in four weeks

Posted By: January 07, 2017

Belfast Telegraph. Saturday, January 17, 2017


Sinn Fein hold a press conference at Parliament Buildings at Stormont in east Belfast to make public its proposed Terms of Reference for the 

Independent Panel Investigation of the Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive scheme. 

Left to right. Gerry Kelly, Michelle O’Neill and Carl N Chuiln. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

Under Sinn Fein’s plan for an investigation into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal, an independent panel led by a judicial figure from outside Northern Ireland would be established.

Northern Ireland’s Attorney General, John Larkin, would appoint the chairperson.

It is envisaged the panel would include experts in accountancy, renewable energy and the workings of the civil service.

The legislation would be required to confer powers to compel witnesses and subpoena papers.

While this could theoretically be done in 10 days through accelerated passage in the Assembly, a more realistic time frame would be four weeks. Sinn Fein wants the panel to produce a

preliminary report within four weeks of it commencing its work, with a final report within three months.

The Republican party wants Arlene Foster to step aside during the period before the preliminary report being completed. The DUP leader has made clear she won’t, so the Sinn Fein proposal is unlikely to be implemented.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said the NI Attorney General should not be asked to appoint the panel chair, as he himself was appointed by, and is accountable to, the First and deputy First Ministers. Mr. Nesbitt suggested Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, should appoint the chair.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said it would not be appropriate for the Attorney General to appoint the chair, commenting: “The Attorney General is a barrister, not a judge. He can’t appoint anyone senior to him. He is not in charge of the judiciary.”

Mrs. Long added that she could not understand why Sinn Fein “cannot bring themselves to call for a full public inquiry.”