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Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Iain McDowell

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all for now...

    It's been a very revealing couple of days at the RHI Inquiry - thanks for joining us.

    Stormont's Parliament Buildings

    The inquiry won't sit next week, but will return on 20 February, when it'll hear from two of the DETI officials who were referred to over and over again today - Fiona Hepper and Peter Hutchinson.

    Until then, it's goodbye from us!

  2. What happened today at the RHI Inquiry?

    BBC News Northern Ireland

    A businesswoman who tried to draw Arlene Foster's attention to a major flaw in the RHI scheme said it was a "complete disgrace" that one of her emails was published by the DUP on Twitter, the inquiry heard.

    The party was given Janette's O'Hagan's correspondence to the former enterprise minister by a Stormont department when the scale of the scandal surrounding the scheme emerged in December 2016.

    A radiator on a wall

    Mrs O'Hagan, who's been described as a whistleblower after contacting Mrs Foster in 2013, felt she had been made out to be "a liar" by the party and the department.

    The inquiry also heard that she met civil servants who were running the initiative and told them it was so lucrative she was surprised firms were not putting radiators on the outsides of their buildings.

  3. 'Cost controls absent from DETI policy paper'

    Mr Aiken draws the inquiry's attention to a draft DETI policy response from February 2014 to a public consultaton on proposed changes the RHI scheme.

    A biomass boiler

    The consultation document of the previous year made reference to "biomass sustainability, metering arrangements and cost controls".

    However, in the February 2014 document the references to biomass and metering remain, but cost controls are absent.

  4. 'Domestic RHI scheme never approved by EU'

    DETI was intending to open an RHI scheme for domestic users in spring 2014.

    It had believed that the initiative didn't need approval from the European Union under regulations about providing state aid for businesses, but that was incorrect - it did.

    The department made that discovery in February 2014 when it noticed that the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), which had been running a similar scheme for domestic users in Great Britain, had applied for European approval.

    A man arranging an union jack and an EU flag

    DECC told DETI civil servant Peter Hutchinson that the scheme was open to landlords and was therefore "likely to constitute state aid".

    Mr Aiken describes that as an "important moment", explaining that one might expect Mr Hutchinson to have raised the matter with any number of key figures in his department, including the minister.

    But the inquiry has found no evidence of that happening.

    Asked by the inquiry panel if the European Commission was ever told of the domestic RHI scheme, Mr Aiken pauses and says: "I don't want to create another inquiry... no."

  5. 'Custom and practice not to minute Foster meetings'

    It "had become custom and practice" the there to be no minutes of meetings between DETI's energy team and the minister Arlene Foster, the inquiry has been told.

    Mr Aiken refers to one particular meeting in which the RHI scheme was discussed in February 2014, which was also attended by the department's then permanent secretary David Sterling and the minister's DUP adviser Andrew Crawford.

    A boardroom

    The lack of a written record raises a "whole series of questions", he says, including who decided it wouldn't be minuted and why that was allowed to continue.

    He questions how such a meeting could take place "without there being any record" of what had happened or what instruction had been given, adding: "How could anyone remember what had occurred?"

    The barrister says the issues he's drawing attention to are of a "potentially serious nature that the inquiry will need to look at".

  6. 'No mention of whistleblower concerns in briefing papers'

    Mr Aiken's presentation is heavily laden with documents relating to internal DETI meetings.

    He demonstrates that the briefing notes relating to an energy division heads-of-branch meeting at the end of January 2014 contain only three bullet points relating to the RHI scheme.

    A man wwith a folder of documents

    Those concern work with the initiative's administrator Ofgem.

    There is nothing to indicate the concerns that had been expressed by the whistleblower Janette O'Hagan, who the inquiry heard from earlier, during her meeting with DETI officials three months previously.

  7. Inquiry counsel outlining inquiry's second phase

    We're up and running again after a quick lunch break.

    The inquiry's junior counsel Joseph Aiken pops up to resume the gallop he began this week through the written evidence for the inquiry's second phase, which deals with the initial operation of the RHI scheme.

    Joseph Aiken

    He's looking at January 2014, when John Mills replaced Fiona Hepper as head of DETI's energy division.

    With full respect to Mr Aiken, we can't promise that this bit will be as gripping as what we heard from Mrs O'Hagan before lunch...

  8. 'Important for ordinary people to be heard'

    Chair Sir Patrick Coghlin gives fulsome thanks to Mrs O'Hagan for the evidence she's given to the inquiry.

    "I know that earlier in this saga you were quite concerned about giving evidence," he says.

    Wide view of senate chamber

    "It's terribly important that ordinary people from outside do get a voice and are listened to."

    That session ran on a bit, so it's time for a quick lunch break - we'll be back at 14:10.

  9. 'I would blow whistle on RHI scheme again'

    Mrs O'Hagan "wouldn't want to do" what she did about the RHI scheme again but "I would have to".

    "I would have to, given the holes that were in the process, the issues that weren't picked up and the money that was wasted," she adds.

    A microphone at Stormont's Great Hall

    She says some journalists "did a really good job" in reporting the RHI catastrophe when it emerged to the public in December 2016 but others left her less than impressed.

    "I never wanted any of the publicity in it - I just wanted to do the right thing."

  10. 'Inquiry will consider political control of civil servants'

    Inquiry chair Sir Patrick Coghlin says that Mrs O'Hagan feels "understandable resentment" that she believed she was dealing solely with the Department for the Economy.

    He says her email was "then either released or spoken about by a purely political person" - the DUP's Nigel Dodds (below, centre) - "or a standpoint that was purely political"

    Nigel Dodds

    Mr Scoffield says the inquiry will be looking at the position of the economy department and its officials under the direction and control of the minster, "who obviously is a party political figure".

    He notes that at that stage the minister was the DUP's Simon Hamilton.

  11. 'Worries about impact on young family from RHI storm'

    Mrs O'Hagan said she didn't want to be identified by the DUP or the economy department because she had a "young family and a young business and I'm trying to protect both".

    She was worried about "any adverse impact that could've came from me being linked to the downfall of the RHI".

    Janette O'Hagan

    She said it was a "really, really anxious time" when she was "thrown into that media storm" and people were even calling at her office.

    She "buried my head" when newspapers contacted her because "I didn't know what to do", but journalists were "respectful" and were trying to help her remain anonymous.

  12. 'DUP and Stormont department made me out as a liar'

    In what she describes as a "very angry" email to Stormont's Department for the Economy (DfE) - formerly DETI - Mrs O'Hagan said that it and the DUP had made "me out as a liar" about the RHI scheme.

    She told a DfE official that "you did not ask nor get my consent" to allow the DUP to release her email.

    "I clearly added that if anyone was going to release my correspondence that they had better protect my identity," she said.

    Stormont's Parliament Buildings

    She accused the DUP of "very poor redaction" and said she had been contacted by "all sorts" as a result of it, adding: "It has put me in a very difficult position."

    Mrs O'Hagan said she took "great offence" at some of what the DUP and the economy department had said about her and she demanded that their statements would be "publicly retracted".

    "I have not and will never lie about what has happened," she added.

  13. 'DUP release of my email a complete disgrace'

    Mrs O'Hagan said it was a "complete disgrace" when the emails she had sent to Arlene Foster in 2013 were published on Twitter by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in December 2016.

    The party's deputy leader Nigel Dodds published one of the emails, saying it "nails the myth" that Mrs Foster "failed to follow up on whistleblower concerns" about the RHI scheme.

    View more on twitter

    He said the email "raised no concerns" about the scheme and he claimed it was the "only contact with the minister".

    But that was incorrect - as we heard earlier, Mrs O'Hagan sent two emails to Mrs Foster.

  14. 'Really shocked when my email appeared on TV'

    Mrs O'Hagan was "really, really shocked" when an email she'd sent to DETI appeared on the BBC's Spotlight investigation programme about the RHI debacle that was broadcast in December 2016.

    The presenter Conor Spackman read from what he described as "a previously unseen email from a whistleblower that was ignored by Arlene Foster's department".

    Mrs O'Hagan says she'd sat down to watch the programme "with a cup of tea and a biscuit" and was astonished when she saw words she'd written years earlier appear on screen.

    The BBC Spotlight logo

    She adds that Spotlight had not been in contact with her about the programme.

    Inquiry chair Sir Patrick Coghlin notes that "this email could only have come from a government source".

    Mrs O'Hagan believes the email Spotlight had obtained was one she'd sent to Mr Hutchinson.

  15. 'I was raging when DETI said it hadn't changed scheme'

    Mrs O'Hagan was "raging" and it was "like a red rag to a bull" when she was told by DETI that it hadn't implemented changes to the RHI scheme two years after she raised her concerns about it.

    In a forthright reply to the department, she said that it was "really disappointing" and she was having an "uphill struggle".

    Burning wood pellets

    She tells the inquiry that "they were being told time and time and time again about this".

    She felt at that point that she was going to give up because "I can't change it - it's outside my control".

  16. 'More and more obvious scheme hadn't changed'

    In spite of the assurance from DETI in June 2014 that it was aware of her concerns, Mrs O'Hagan says she saw no changes to the RHI scheme in the months that followed.

    That prompted her to get in touch with the department again in March 2015, when she asked what had been happening.

    Janette O'Hagan

    She said the subsidy on offer through the RHI scheme was having a "huge adverse impact" on her business and there needed to be a "motivation to save" energy, adding that she was "passionate about this issue".

    She tells the inquiry that she had to make those points again because it was "more and more obvious" that she'd seen no "appetite on the ground" for people to save energy.

  17. 'Hope when DETI said concerns on its radar'

    After not hearing back from Mr Hutchinson, Mrs O'Hagan says that in her "persistency" she decided to contact his former boss Mrs Hepper in June 2014.

    But she was told that there had been an overhaul of the staff on DETI's energy team, and all three of the civil servants she'd met the previous October had moved elsewhere.

    A risk flow-chart

    She says she was relieved and hopeful when she was told by the department that the issues she'd raised were "on our radar" and that she would be kept "up to date".

    She tells the inquiry: "I almost thought: 'I can let it go now... I don't have any more responsibility to raise this.'"

  18. 'Not a dickie bird in reply from DETI official'

    In May 2014, Mrs O'Hagan sent another email to Mr Hutchinson to reiterate the concerns she'd expressed about the RHI scheme at the meeting with DETI the previous October.

    In the email, she said "there is no incentive at all to be efficient" and the "heat in buildings is on all year round with windows open everywhere".

    View across the senate chamber

    "When we had spoken you did not believe this, but please believe me, this is happening with almost everyone we approach," she added.

    Mrs O'Hagan says that by the time she sent that email she was "really, really certain that this was happening".

    But she got "not a dickie bird" in reply from Mr Hutchinson.

  19. 'Blind man on horse would've noticed errors'

    A man on a horse

    A "blind man on a galloping horse" would've caught on to the concerns that Mrs O'Hagan was telling the DETI officials about the RHI scheme.

    She says it was their responsibility to keep an eye on the scheme - it was "their nine-to-five" - and to talk to people in the industry about it and pick up on how it was being promoted.

  20. 'Civil servants had evidence at their fingertips'

    Mrs O'Hagan says the DETI officials' have emphasised in their evidence to the inquiry that there was a lack of proof to support the claims she was making about the RHI scheme, but she says it wasn't her job to find it.

    "Effectively, I was raising something - it was their job to follow it up, they had the evidence at their fingertips."

    Peter Hutchinson

    Mrs Hepper and Mr Hutchinson (above) have told the inquiry that the information Mrs O'Hagan provided to them was "anecdotal or hypothetical", says counsel Mr Scoffield.

    But Mrs O'Hagan says that she was outlining actual experiences she had on the ground, and neither civil servant asked her for evidence that they could follow up on.

    "I didn't think they were hungry for the evidence, to be honest."