RHI scandal: Moy Park raises ‘new concerns” with officials about scheme

Moy Park met with civil servants on Monday
Moy Park met with civil servants on Monday

Northern Ireland’s dominant poultry company has met Government officials over the RHI scheme and raised “new concerns” which are now being investigated, Stormont’s finance minister has said.

Sinn Fein’s Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said that Moy Park had briefed his officials on Monday about unspecified issues.

Moy Park both directly – through RHI claims of its own – and indirectly via improved facilities and income streams for many of its producers, benefited from the RHI scheme.

More than half the total claimants to the non-domestic RHI scheme were farmers, a large proportion of whom were poultry farmers.

In a statement tonight, Mr Ó Muilleoir said: “My officials have continued to examine the operation of the scheme.

“Yesterday, Moy Park briefed my officials in relation to new concerns over the RHI scheme.

“That briefing has raised further issues.”

In a statement tonight, Moy Park said: “The company has met with officials from the Department of Finance and the Department for the Economy over recent days to discuss the Northern Ireland RHI Scheme.

“The purpose of the meetings was to offer insight and suggestions based on Moy Park’s experience of benchmarked energy use in poultry farming in GB and NI.

““Many of our contracted family-owned farms are participants within the NI RHI Scheme and as advocates of the responsible use of heat, we felt our experience could be relevant and useful in the development of a solution to secure the NI RHI scheme within budget.

“We hope our contribution was of value.”

The finance minister also said that he would not be accepting any “botched solution” to the situation.

The DUP has said that it has a proposal – which seemingly involves retrospectively changing every RHI contract to reduce payments – which would mean “zero cost” to the taxpayer.

The finance minister said that DUP minister Simon Hamilton’s officials had sent his department a paper on the issue at 5.55pm on Monday, but had withdrawn it 10 minutes later.

Mr Ó Muilleoir said: “The operation of this scheme has been botched; I can ensure the public that I will not accept a botched solution.”

But Arlene Foster said that her party had “a clear plan in place” to “bring costs under control”.

She said: “Detailed work on cost controls is ongoing and material will be sent to the Department of Finance.

“We want any draft legislation to bring spending into line and the minister for the economy will consult with other parties on this.

“Simon [Hamilton] will, later this week, have more to say on both transparency and cost controls.”