Highest RHI uptake came after Conor Murphy fought to keep the scheme open…

To begin, last December, Mr Murphy said:

… the devolved institutions have been “badly damaged” by the scandal which could cost the public well over £400m. He also said his party would support a public enquiry into the workings of the scheme.

What we need to do is to get to the truth and have a full exposure of what happened.

But it turns out he (along with Arlene’s SpAds) had pushed the then DETI Minister Jonathan Bell to keep the scheme open on 11th February, last year for two extra weeks:

The Enterprise, Trade and Investment minister had initially planned to close the scheme earlier, which would have caused tremendous difficulties for those currently involved in preparing applications.

I discussed this with the minster and urged him to keep the scheme open to allow those applications to be completed and thankfully he has now done so.

This will mean the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme will remain open for two weeks after the minister’s proposed closure date.

This is six days after Mr Bell’s office appraised the Executive of the sustainability problem with the RHI scheme. In an FOI request of Ofgen (the independent regulator charged with overseeing the scheme), the Belfast Telegraph discovered:

…that the highest uptake for RHI came during the final two weeks in February 2016, after Mr Murphy fought to keep the scheme open. His constituency in Newry and Armagh had the second highest number of RHI applicants after Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

In fact, the then dFM knew about the problem in January when the whistleblower letter arrived (See The Blame Game) at the then Office of First and deputy First Minister. If Michelle O’Neill is to be believed McGuinness did not inform his Executive colleagues till February.

Having praised Bell to the heights in public back then, the prevailing wind switches after the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report in July and along with it, Sinn Fein’s position on Bell and the RHI. Mairtin gave the game away at a Finance Committee meeting in October:

And here we are. At the time of publication the Telegraph noted:

Mr Murphy has not yet replied to a request for comment, and Sinn Fein has not yet replied to numerous requests for comments on the party’s involvement in RHI.

Why are we having this election again?

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  • rg

    What a surprise! Might have guessed it. South Armagh anyone?

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    The corruption at the heart of the RHI scheme lies squarely with the DUP and no other political party. Since day one there has been an attempt to make Sinn Fein as culpable as the DUP on this matter when quite frankly they aren’t. From family members to SPADs, MLA’s and ministers, the corruption in this episode is with one party and one party only. Jonathan Bell did what he did because he knew the damage this could potentially cause the DUP. Had the Shinners had their finger in this particular pie then something entirely different would have played out when he blew his whistle. Red Sky, NAMA, Charter Ni and RHI all have one common denominator and it isn’t Sinn Fein unfortunately. And in the interests of fairness, Daniel McCrossan of the SDLP was lobbying for the scheme to be kept open also at the same time as Connor Murphy.

    There’s an endemic problem with corruption within the DUP Mick and it’s time that it was acknowledged

  • rg

    Explain NAMA again. Just what is there about it that upsets nationalists? They trot this out constantly yet unionists just shrug and wonder what the….
    Charter NI – money going to PUL areas which have been neglected for years. What’s not to like?

  • Typical Sinn Fein response….hear no evil, see no evil…it was wall them ones!

    Whats really interesting here is that Sinn Fein has been attacking the SDLP for weeks about voting to keep the RHI scheme (Despite it being a different scheme) open. Michelle O’Neill said last week that when Sinn Fein found out about the scheme they close it.

    NOW we find out that she was lying. Sinn Fein actively, just like Foster and the DUP, lobbied to have the scheme extended longer. Questions here are now numerous. Why did Murphy and SF lobby when they knew the scheme was flawed? Who benefited from this scheme during that 2 week period…who in Newry and Armagh benefited from this? What other Sinn Fein MLAs lobbied for the scheme.

  • Skibo

    Was the scheme in January not the one with the cost controls in place? I would have assumed that with cost controls in place the Treasury in Westminster would have picked up the tab. The scheme is still open in England and Wales. In theory the scheme was a good idea. The fact that cost controls had conveniently been deleted from the GB legislation was the problem.
    The Greens are proposing opening the scheme again with the proper cost controls in place.

  • Sharpie

    Four of the first five comments feel like the cavalry has arrived with this nonsense. The two week window is such a non-story. It was four months after the cost controls were put in place so there was nothing to lose except jobs at this stage. The as Nolan calls it “the lucrative” bits of the scheme being exploited by the UFU and Moy Park had been closed off. You can be assured that they had run a mile from it and the only ones now in on the act were the genuine cases.

  • the keep

    There’s an endemic problem with corruption within the DUP Mick and it’s time that it was acknowledged

    That would be a fair comment if it came from the SDLP but to come from the SF now that is amusing!

  • grumpyfactcheck

    As the person who posted this info on twitter yesterday and getting picked up by a few news outlets.

    The Conor Murphy release has little to do with the RHI scheme. It is more the SF message that has come out over the last few months. SF has pushed political point scoring messages at the parties who voted No to close the scheme.

    The reason these parties voted no is they wanted a delay to allow those with installations currently in progress to go ahead. There was a fear that customers would reject boilers and businesses could be left with stock. There was also legal issues due to publication of a later closure date.

    SF has been pointing out they closed the scheme immediately and ASAP. This wasn’t the case and they too wanted a short delay – the issue was over the length of the delay that SDLP, UUP, Alliance etc.

    I would have made the same mistake as all the parties wanting delay.

    Not that it is an issue. The two week delay lead to 287 new applications to the RHI (84 of which are currently still not generating heat). The remaining 203 are and this will add £2m to the over spend this year. Over the 20 year lifetime this will be in excess of £48m due to RPI tariff increases. If the currently inactive boilers come online this could have added £67m to the cost of the scheme. I would have got it wrong to delay with the benefit of hindsight.

    Of course RHI is 100% a DUP problem and nothing I have seen points any fingers at Conor or SF thus far. The only thing SF are guilty of are distorting the truth slightly and a bit of hypocrisy in relation to the closure of the scheme.

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    And why would that be?

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    To be fair, unionists just shrugging and wondering what the….. is one of the main reasons more and more people are being put off by them

  • Katyusha

    I appreciate your hard work and tenaciousness, Mick.
    First it was Martin McGuiness’ fault as he held a joint office with Arlene.
    Then it was Mairtin O’Muilleoir’s fault as he was the Finance Minister.
    Then it was Michelle O’Neill’s fault as her department promoted the scheme (which was surely exactly what DARD were supposed to be doing).
    Now it is Conor Murphy’s fault.

    Some day, if you keep burrowing hard enough, you might strike gold and find a way to deflect from the DUP’s collosal display of incompetence and irresponsibility over RHI and get some mud to stick on Sinn Fein. But today is not that day.

    Why are we having this election again?

    Do you really have to ask, this late in the game?

  • burnboilerburn

    Similar to the recent effort to Drag Michelle O’Neill into the frame, this is just another vain attempt to link SF to the disaster which is completely the fault of the DUP. Such desperation shows how heavy this is weighing down on Arlene Foster and her gang, they must be getting kicked at the doorsteps.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Well the importance of this latest revelation is that it shoots to pieces the Sinn Fein argument about the SDLP and UUP voting to keep RHI open last February. Sinn Fein have been trying to claim credit for closing it down. What nonsense. They kept it open for a further two weeks.

    And Sinn Fein are going round the houses saying that the SDLP were at fault in the RHI scandal

  • johnny lately

    It’s a bit like handing out grants to buy wood for loyalist bonfires, unionists don’t see anything wrong with it but most sane people would. Same with NAMA and Charter NI

  • rg

    Nolan won’t be interested now Murphy is involved.

  • mickfealty

    He’s only asking for an outline of the evidence against the DUP Ciaran. It’s one of those tropes that’s repeated so often after a time it becomes unclear what it actually means.

  • mickfealty

    Thanks GFC!! Both for breaking the story and the clarity of your post.

    I find the whole story exasperating, not least the lack of probing on various problematic aspects. Almost every delay from June 2015 on (with the possible exception of Bell’s unaccounted for delay between June and September) could be blamed on concerns (legal and practical) about the consequences of fixing the growing fiscal hole.

    Yet, in so many regards we just don’t know what’s gone on. That’s why I ended the OP with a non visual glance to the heavens asking why the ‘next step’ has to be a election, rather than the report that will certainly tell us what we NEED to know!!

  • mickfealty

    Up to a point it was a good scheme, if it was rolled to the right people. But even the GB scheme pays people for used ash. That’s fundamentally not cool or Green.

  • file

    Why did Martin McGuinness resign, is that what you want to know? Read his letter. End of tether. http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/martin-mcguinness-resignation-letter-in-full-35353565.html

  • Jag

    This would remind you of Martin McGuinness and NAMA, when Martin claimed he didn’t receive an email from Peter Robinson about a proposed deal with a buyer for NAMA’s Northern Ireland loans. Peter then found the email his assistant sent to Martin. There was never any suggestion of malfeasance against Martin, but the facts show he simply didn’t know what was going on. Incompetence, I suppose you’d call it.

    This revelation (or realisation) about the RHI scheme has the same ring to it, that Conor just didn’t realise how damaging this scheme was. Incompetence again you could argue, but nothing more sinister than that (he would say, though isn’t there a concentration of RHI grants in Conor’s bailiwick?).

  • Jag

    “Why are we having this election again?”

    Because, when the slow learners in SF, with the graphic assistance of the BBC, realised the significance of the overspend, they sought an inquiry (of sorts) and demanded Arlene step aside because she was at the heart of the RHI scheme, and faces credible accusations of wrongdoing (from Jonathan Bell for example, which she denies), and Arlene refused to step aside without prejudice. SF spent 9 days from the end of 2016 to around 9th January increasingly escalating its demands for Arlene to step aside, and she refused. That’s why we are having this election.

  • mickfealty

    You’re just not reading what I’ve written Kate. ? Why not look again? ?

  • mickfealty

    Nope.

  • file

    So what do you want to know? Why are we having an election? Because there was a straw which broke the camel’s back. It may have been Queen Arlene’s attitude when McGuinness phoned her up to advise her to step aside and everything would blow over. It may have been Líofa funding. Or it may have been £2m for orange halls. It may have been the Brexit balls-up. Who cares? The institutions were not working; they were doing their usual crap job of not actually enacting much legislation. And equality for nationalist culture was as far away as ever. And the DUP had no idea how to go about power-sharing. When banging one’s head off a brick wall the only sensible advice is to stop.

  • mickfealty

    Read The Blame Game link above?

  • donaloc

    The question I have is that this revelation appears to run directly contrary to the interview Conor provided to the Nolan show yesterday on this very issue – why hasn’t anyone raised this?

  • file

    I have read it before. But I welcome RHI becoming front and centre as we near the end of this election campaign. Hopefully the Irish language can now fade into the background as an issue and just get on with its work quietly. So ALL political parties argued for a period of grace before closing down the scheme so that orders currently in the pipeline could be honoured. The scandal is still a) incompetence in setting up the scheme in such a way that the payments were higher than the cost of the fuel; b) ‘forgetting’ to get Dept of Finance approval for renewal of the scheme; c) certain SPADS and others connected to political parties lining their boots; d) lack of governance on the implementation of the scheme having outsourced it to an outside agency; e) paying £2m to a ‘charity’ to promote the scheme, the CEO of which is also the spokesman for the group of RHI beneficiaries who got the legal injunction against naming them; f) alleged attempts to doctor civil service records to disguise pressure to keep the scheme open … and ALL of these are DUP issues or were carried out by DUP Ministers. just as well SF did not pick Murphy as Northern Head Honcho though! :):)

  • burnboilerburn

    The department of Agriculture itself came out only the other day and said that o’neill had no idea the scheme eas corrupt when she was reccommending it. In fact, it was her job at the time to reccommend all types of energy saving schemes across the agri sector. She had no way of knowing that Arlene had sold a duck, no more than any of the other ministers did.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Some SFers were even claiming it was ‘fake news’ until it appeared in The Times. I kid you not.

    They seem to forget how reluctant SF were to pull the plug on the DUP/SF marriage of convenience….

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/sinn-f-in-leadership-favourite-lobbied-for-rhi-extension-6x35b5t65

  • Dixie Elliott

    Red Sky, Nama and now RHI and the Sinn Féiners didn’t know a thing?

    Maybe they were too engrossed with their lesser scams, like the fake Historical Societies or that Research company which netted them a cool £700,000 before someone knocked on the door and found an empty room, to notice anything untoward going on?

    Or maybe they were just content to be shoveling coal into the boiler as the DUP took charge of the Gravy Train?

  • burnboilerburn
  • Jack fotheringham

    On the fence, you still there?lol

  • mickfealty

    All exactly as I argued at the very outset.

  • file

    So we are on the same cloud now then? Good. And we are both agreed it is the DUP’s fault, not Sinn Féin’s?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Nolan has invited Conor round to his studio for another wee chat and a wee cup of tea ! All of a sudden Conor has took “Man Flu” ?

  • mickfealty

    I’ve been consistent on this matter from the start. RHI happened on the DUP watch, and SF knew all about it before the last election. So, explain to me again why we’re having this election?

  • murdockp

    I think this is no more than conor murphy promoting a scheme that he had assumed to be fit for purpose.

    The hidden flaws in the scheme that had been introduced by Arlene et al as modifications to the uk scheme which had been carefully designed is the real story here.

    If I promoted my friends band to my other friends. The fact they couldn’t play good music does not mean I am responsible for their poor musianship. The fault lies with who ever put the band together.

    Not I am no SF supporter. I dislike all NI political parties equally.

  • file

    Because Sinn Féín are using RHI as the straw that broke the camel’s back. And their supporters are telling them to get out of power-sharing with people who do not know how to do it. It is going well so far: Foster is now such damaged goods that her own advisers are keeping her away from the press, and every time she does open her mouth she damages her brand more.

  • Jollyraj

    “The corruption at the heart of the RHI scheme lies squarely with the DUP and no other political party” – and I don’t give a damn what the facts are.

    Did you even read the article above?

  • burnboilerburn

    “Corruption”. Where are the clams that Michelle is corrupt?

  • Ciaran O’Neill

    Have a read at the featured comment Jollyraj

  • Skibo

    Mick who are the “right” people? Each and every RHI member should be investigated to prove the tag of “useful” heat. Anything that cannot be proved useful as opposed to heat for the sake of raising their quota, should be demanded paid back.
    The “useful” heat is an EU requirement and as per the SFP, any sniff of mistakes in payments will result in fines.

  • mickfealty

    There you go, you answered your own question. ?

  • Skibo

    I assume the hand claps are sarcasm!
    When a scheme is rolled out, it is available to all who complete the forms and tick the required boxs. There are no right or wrong people. You sounded so like David Trimble when he appealed to ordinary decent people to vote for the UUP as if to say anyone who didn’t vote for them was not ordinary or decent.
    The scheme was badly set up. The cost controls were deleted and it seems the controls on the scheme for adhering to the fact of the heat has to be useful seems to be non existent. Just who set this up and who is running it?
    We are losing sight of that.

  • mickfealty

    The right people? People who need a new form of sustainable heat and can use it in the way it was intended. Quality, not quantity.

    Did you think I meant one of these? (Go away you and wash your mouth out with soap)…

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f3b91c44063f643714658cfd9e8b424fa3645a12f628e0445add112289a55d81.jpg

  • Skibo

    Mick, you actually raise an important point. Should the RHI have been directed at replacement or new. I believe it was replacement yet actual figures show it was 60% new.

    I wonder should your picture be rejigged for the present day with the way the UUP is now not consistent in who should get their second preference?