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 the Member for his question. Let me just bring you up to date with some of the issues in the discussions with Sir Patrick Coghlin. The inquiry, as you will see, Mr Poots, begins on 1 February; I presume that is for gathering papers. It is Sir Patrick Coghlin's opinion and conviction that there should not be inquiry hearings before the election. I think Members understand why he has come to that conclusion, and that is his decision.

It is also for Sir Patrick Coghlin to decide how long the inquiry will take. I think he has to follow the evidence, but he is aware of my opinion, which I repeated here today, that the public would like, expeditiously, to get to the truth and to a final report. I think he will take cognisance of that. But again, I do not think it is our role to tell him — certainly, we cannot tell him under the Inquiries Act 2005 — that it has to be time-limited. I still have the feeling that a six-month inquiry on this specific issue should be able to deliver for us, but it is a matter for the chair.

I will repeat what I said earlier, Mr Poots; I am not sure whether you were here. The chair is very strongly of the opinion that there should not be an interim report. He will not make any report until he has all the facts gathered. That is his determination on these matters and what he has stated, so he will not produce an interim report, much as many of us would like to see that. I respect his judgement, as with all these matters in that case.