RHI scandal: ‘Ridiculous’ lack of clarity over Green Party request

Green Party leader Steven Agnew made the request for information last month
Green Party leader Steven Agnew made the request for information last month

A refusal to release ministerial advice surrounding the RHI scheme over fears that it could lead to ‘lower quality decision making,’ has been branded “simply ridiculous” by Steven Agnew.

The Green Party NI leader said the rejection of his request by the Department for the Economy (DfE), made last month, leaves vital questions around the over-budget green energy scheme.

“In 2013 I sought an assessment from Arlene Foster, the then minister of enterprise, trade and investment as to whether or not subsidies for biomass disincentivised energy efficiency,” he said.

“She denied that the RHI could have perverse incentives and so I have sought what information she had been given to reach this conclusion. The public need to know if this was an honest oversight or something more sinister.”

Rejecting Mr Agnew’s request for information relating to the 2013 briefings, the department said its release could “produce a ‘chilling effect’ on the provision of future advice and lower the quality of internal deliberation and decision making in the future which could lead to poor decision making on such issues”.

Mr Agnew went on to say: “By blocking the publication ... we are not able to resolve that question. This helps neither the public nor Arlene Foster herself.

“We need to know if the minister was giving all the information she had access to when she answered my question. The fact that one of the reasons given for not releasing the information is that it may “lower the quality of internal deliberation and decision-making” is simply ridiculous given the quality of decision making that has led to this situation.”