Jim Allister has questioned why the names of 48 non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) claimants have been withheld from publication.
The TUV leader said he welcomed the Department for the Economy’s decision to release the vast majority of names of those registered with the green energy scheme, but said he was “intrigued” that others had not been identified.
“I would like to understand the rationale which led to them being withheld,” he said in written request to the department’s permanent secretary.
“While the publication of the vast majority of the names is welcome attention will understandably focus on those withheld and why. It is therefore vital that the Department is open and up front about this.”
Following the publication of the list earlier this week, the News Letter asked the department to explain why certain individuals were entitled to the exemption.
“In accordance with the judgment of the High Court on 1 March 2016, the department undertook a comprehensive Data Protection exercise to assess the legitimate interests of the beneficiaries under the RHI scheme in non-disclosure of their names.
“The responses were then considered and the department balanced the public interest in disclosure against any contrary interests identified by the individual”.
The ten questions posed by Jim Allister to the Department for the Economy’s permanent secretary –
• how many claimants sought to have their names withheld;
• how many were successful in their representations;
• whether any court injunctions were operative and, if so, how many;
• what precise criteria were followed when arriving at a decision to publish or withhold a name;
• whether the process involved any appeal mechanism and, if so, please elaborate;
• please precisely identify the public interest relied upon in withholding individual names, if such is said to be relevant;
• please advise if the fact that an applicant had already been identified in the media as a claimant played any part in withholding any names;
• were there any security considerations in play and, if so, was the advice of the PSNI obtained;
• please list the “legitimate interests” which were deemed sufficient to warrant withholding names;
• please detail any other considerations which were deemed relevant.