After amassing one million pages, RHI inquiry to begin

RHI inquiry chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin and members of his team at a preliminary hearing in September. Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The public inquiry into the RHI scandal has set out details of when its first witnesses will give evidence in public.

Sir Patrick Coghlin’s inquiry, which will begin its public hearings in Stormont’s senate chamber next Tuesday, said that it now had more than one million pages of documents and had served more than 500 statutory notices compelling individuals and organisations to produce documents and witness statements as part of what it described as a “massive evidence gathering process in preparation for the hearings”.

Tuesday’s hearing will begin with a statement by Sir Patrick, a retired Appeal Court judge, whose comments will be followed by counsel for the inquiry, David Scoffield QC, making an opening statement which is likely to continue for most of the week.

Mr Scoffield is expected to address the inquiry’s sweeping terms of reference, speak of the work on which it has been engaged in the nine months since it was established and set out themes which have emerged from the vast pile of evidence which it has so far amassed.

He will then be followed by statements from lawyers for each of the three ‘core participants’ – the Department for the Economy, the Department of Finance and Ofgem.

The first witness to what is described as an “investigatory fact-finding” inquiry rather than an adversarial trial will be civil servant Alison Clydesdale who is expected to be called on November 28.

Fiona Hepper, another official – who subsequent to her role with the RHI scheme was promoted – will appear on December 7.

Sir Patrick’s inquiry has pledged that it will be “conducted in an atmosphere of openness and transparency so that the public can see the key evidence which the inquiry has gathered during its investigation”.

The hearings will be streamed, with a short delay, on the inquiry’s website.

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