Northern Ireland

Newspaper review: A - Z of RHI claimants in papers

Image copyright News Letter

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) controversy is set alight again today as the papers all choose to publish the full list of non-domestic claimants.

Set up in November 2012, the RHI scheme was an attempt by the Northern Ireland Executive to help increase consumption of heat from renewable sources.

But the scheme became massively oversubscribed and the fallout over who was to blame eventually led to the breakdown of devolved government at Stormont.

A public inquiry into the scheme is now under way.

Image copyright Tchara

The News Letter's front page features eye-catching flames licking around the words "Full list of RHI names".

Inside, there's a 12-page pullout featuring every business which was awarded more than £5,000.

It quotes a statement from the Department for the Economy: "The application of a threshold and the publication of this list has been carried out in line with the High Court judgement on March 12, 2017 and is based on the most up-to-date data that the department has received from Ofgem.

"The department wishes to make it very clear that the sole reason for publishing this list has been in the interests of transparency.

"Inclusion in the list does not, in any way, imply wrongdoing by any of the beneficiaries."

'£1m RHI claim'

The Irish News carries the story on its front page under the headline: "One RHI claimant is paid almost £1m."

County Tyrone poultry farmer Fred Maxwell is named on the list as having received £900,000 since installing his first biomass boiler in August 2013.

The paper also quotes a body representing hundreds of claimants - the Renewable Heat Association Northern Ireland (RHANI) - which says some of the figures are "inaccurate".

It said the publication of the list was "distressing" for its members and asked why the "names, grades and salaries of the civil servants who designed, managed and policed the scheme" were not publicly available.

The Belfast Telegraph has an interview with the farmer named as having claimed almost £1m from the scheme.

Image copyright georgeclerk
Image caption One claimant has told the Belfast Telegraph that poultry farmers are not the "crooks"

He says he wishes he had "never heard of RHI".

Mr Maxwell told the paper he has spent more than £2m on equipment, fuel and bank loans.

He says he could have put in "as many boilers as I liked," but chose not to take advantage of the system.

"There are crooks using RHI as there are in any system, but I can't see it being the chicken farmers," he says.

"Where is the farmer heating empty sheds with the windows open? He doesn't exist."

Elsewhere, the papers report on the funeral of 15-year-old Caitlin White, who became ill in Corcrain woodland near Portadown over the weekend.

Image caption Caitlin died in hospital on Saturday

The Belfast Telegraph reports that some of her "grief-stricken" friends were due to take an exam after the funeral.

The priest who led the funeral service is quoted as saying: "This is not how it's supposed to be."

Addressing Caitlin's young friends, he said: "The greatest testament you can give to Caitlin is to celebrate the life you have been gifted, to turn away from anyone that might harm that right and celebrate Caitlin for how she lived."

The Irish News and News Letter each carry similar reports of the teenager's funeral.