Election Diary: Bring back RHI scheme, says the Green Party

Green Party leader Steven Agnew
Green Party leader Steven Agnew

The Renewable heat Incentive scheme should be resurrected, the Green party has said in its manifesto.

Working on the premise that there was nothing in principle with having a scheme to incentivise people to use green energy adn the problem was the lack of cost controls, the Greens propose bringing back effectively the version of the schme which was in place between cost controls being introduced in November 2015 and the whole scheme being closed last February.

The manifesto proposes to “reintroduce a Renewable Heat Incentive scheme - based on the successful model used in Great Britain, with proper cost and demand management controls - after costs of the current scheme are brought under control.”

Elsewhere, the manifesto highlights that Green leader Steven Agnew was one of a tiny handful of people who raised questions about the nature of Stormont’s RHI scheme while it was in its infancy.

The manifesto also commits to spending £25 per person in Northern Ireland on cycling - the equivalent of about £45m – as well as building more greenways.

And the party says it would introduce “a suspension on new road build projects with a focus on better maintenance of existing road infrastructure” as well as exploring re-opening long-closed parts of the railway network.

UTV debate viewing figures well up

In what may be an indication that the public are more engaged with this election that some around Stormont expected, Thursday night’s TV debate attracted a far bigger audience than for the same programme last year.

Last year’s UTV leaders’ debate (at 8pm) was watched by an average of 99,000 people (18% of the total audience), with a peak audience of 128,000.

But Thursday night’s debate (at 9pm) was seen by an average of 141,000 people (23% of total viewers), with a peak of 162,000 viewers – making it the most watched programme in Northern Ireland while it was on.

The BBC’s leaders’ debate, chaired by veteran Noel Thompson, will go out on Tuesday, February 28 – just two days before the polls open.

Upcoming hustings

• South Belfast: Agapé Centre, 232 Lisburn Road, February 20, 7.30pm (Organised by Challenges NI, William Crawley chairing).

• Health: MAC, central Belfast, February 22, 1pm (The MAC and Belfast Healthy Cities).

• South Belfast: Mencap Centre, 5 School Road, February 22, 5.30pm. (Candidates speaking to individuals in groups about mental health, organised by Mencap)

• West Tyrone: Omagh Community House, February 23, 11am (Mencap, as above).

• Human Rights and Equality Hustings: Galway House, 165 York St, Belfast, February 24, 10am (Human Rights Consortium/Equality Coalition).

Send details of any public hustings events to sam.mcbride@newsletter.co.uk or phone 02890 897722.