Publication of RHI names stalled

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA
Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton is still mulling over the legal implications of a court ruling this week, which led to him stalling the publication of a list of RHI recipients.

The DUP minister’s department was expected to reveal a full list of businesses benefiting from the botched green energy scheme on Wednesday.

However, a group of boiler operators launched a legal challenge to the plans on Tuesday, which resulted in a High Court judge imposing an interim injunction to stop any members’ personal details being disclosed.

The order will remain in place for up to a week and covers only those in the Renewable Heat Association of Northern Ireland (RHANI).

Alliance’s Stewart Dickson has argued that the injunction granting some recipients temporary anonymity should not block the identification of other beneficiaries.

He added: “The minister promised a list and should have foreseen an injunction coming, taking appropriate action to mitigate against it.

“Any injunction should not be a block to releasing immediately the names of those who have not taken the injunction.”

The News Letter asked the Department for the Economy why Mr Hamilton had stalled the publication of the list.

A statement from the department said: “The minister is considering the court judgment and will reflect on options to ensure maximum transparency on the details of non-domestic RHI recipients consistent with the court ruling.”

Lawyers for the body set up to represent boiler owners on the scheme claimed published names would create a media “feeding frenzy” and threaten the reputation of individuals who have done nothing wrong.

They argued that Mr Hamilton’s plan breaches privacy and data protection laws.

Judicial review proceedings were issued by Michael Doran, chairman of the RHANI.

Gerald Simpson QC, for Mr Doran argued that those on the non-domestic RHI scheme have a legitimate expectation that their privacy would be protected.

Tony McGleenan QC, for the department, said public interest issues outweigh any privacy entitlements.

Following submissions Mr Justice Deeny reserved his decision on whether to grant leave to seek a judicial review.