RHI Inquiry chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin has moved to dismiss claims that there is anything untoward in the length of time which it is taking for his report to be published.
The inquiry concluded its public evidence sessions almost a year ago and for months there have been unsubstantiated suggestions - which have mostly emanated from anonymous republican Twitter accounts - that there is some conspiracy behind the length of time which it has taken to publish the report.
However, the inquiry has been working behind the scenes to piece together some of the exceptionally complex elements of the story and has since July been writing to those it will criticise to give them a chance to respond to those criticisms, a decision seemingly intended to head off potential legal challenges to the report.
This week SDLP MLA Sinéad Bradley wrote to the inquiry chairman to ask him when the report would be published and to clarify whether he was satisfied that “the release of the report to the public domain is in no way being hampered or unduly delayed”.
The inquiry secretary, Andrew Brown, said in a letter to Ms Bradley that her concerns had been put to Sir Patrick who had asked him to reply on his behalf.
Mr Browne said: “The report will be published as soon as reasonably possible, taking account of the amount and complexity of the evidence received and in order to be fair to all the witnesses who have engaged in the representations process”.
He emphasised that “no timeline was ever set for the inquiry, either in the terms of reference or subsequently” and that the inquiry’s procedures and conduct are a matter for the chairman alone.
Mr Browne added: “There has been no interference from any outside body or individual, nor would the chairman tolerate any such attempt.
“We have not, therefore, been hampered or delayed in any way and are continuing to word assiduously to complete the report and close the inquiry”.
Over recent weeks, various sources have suggested that the inquiry may report in late October or November. However, there has been no confirmation from the inquiry of when it expects the report to be complete and unofficial suggestions of various publication dates have consistently proved to be incorrect.
Ms Bradley said she was “satisfied that the response was swift and thorough.”
She added: “Given the volume of evidence gathered it was always envisaged a reasonable amount of time would be required to produce a considered final report.
“I trust that when launched the depth of content will justify the time and resource directed to this critical process.”