Civil servants’ request for addition RHI inquiry rights rejected

The inquiry hearings are being held in Parliament Buildings
The inquiry hearings are being held in Parliament Buildings

Eight civil servants who had some involvement with the RHI scheme have applied to be given additional rights at the public inquiry but had their requests rejected, it has emerged.

Speaking at yesterday’s preliminary hearing of the inquiry, chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin revealed that the inquiry had recently received the request “from a number of civil servants who played important roles in relation to the scheme at various points in time”.

The civil servants had made applications to be designated as ‘core participants’, a categorisation which provides the right to apply for legal representation and participatory rights during hearings.

Just three ‘core participants’ have been designated by Sir Patrick – the Department for the Economy, the Department of Finance and Ofgem.

Sir Patrick said that he had decided that giving that status to civil servants was “not necessary or appropriate”.

In a determination published on the inquiry website, Sir Patrick named the civil servants as Fiona Hepper, Joanne McCutcheon, Alison Clydesdale, Peter Hutchinson, David Thomson, who he were described as ‘team one’, and three other officials in ‘team two’, Chris Stewart, Stuart Wightman and Seamus Hughes.

Sir Patrick said that all of those individuals were among the 23 people to whom he had given ‘enhanced participatory rights’ which he said also included the consultants who advised on the scheme design (Cambridge Economic Policy Associates) the two ministers responsible for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment during the key periods and a number of DUP special advisers (Spads).