Public Inquiry on the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme

Part of Ministerial Statement – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:00 pm on 24th January 2017.

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Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin 4:00 pm, 24th January 2017

I thank Dr Farry for his question. I note in the debate yesterday that he talked about a "leap of faith" in the RHI solution in terms of the finances. There is, of course, a leap of faith in this, but I think that he shares with me the confidence in Sir Patrick Coghlin.

As for 1(b), I hope that the terms of reference are as wide-ranging and as broad as possible. Do not forget that if, in the coming days or, indeed, the coming weeks, you discover or someone else in the public discovers that there is an omission, the way forward is for Sir Patrick Coghlin to bring that forward and ask for an amendment to the terms of reference. The pledge that I am giving is, I suppose, a double pledge: any requests from the chair will be acceded and agreed to; and I will not come back with terms of reference to interfere in his conduct of the inquiry. So, if Dr Farry believes that perhaps there is an area that needs even broader remit, he is welcome to raise that matter with the chair of the inquiry.

I stress again that, when we set about this, we said, "How do you find out the truth of the RHI scheme? How do you get to the dark corners? How do you make sure that no one can avoid the consequences of behaviour that was wrong? How are we going to hold people to account?". The answer was, "Let's make sure it's broad enough to cover all eventualities". There is, however, the safety catch that, if in the time ahead, we find that we have omitted something, and if Sir Patrick Coghlin asks for that, I am giving a pledge to accede to any requests from him. Of course, I ask that any future Finance Minister be equally agreeable.