The multinational corporate meat processing company which was the single biggest beneficiary of the RHI scheme attempted to give the minister running the scheme a free turkey – but he refused it.
Simon Hamilton, who as DUP economy minister was responsible for the scheme in December 2016 at the point when it became a huge public scandal, said that that month he was told by his private secretary that poultry processor Moy Park “had offered me, as minister, a turkey”.
Mr Hamilton told the inquiry: “I thought this to be inappropriate in the circumstances and I declined.”
At that point, Mr Hamilton was a key figure in deciding what would happen with the RHI scheme – a decision which would have both a direct impact on Moy Park, because it has several boilers, but also a huge indirect impact on the billion pound company because about 40% of the total boilers on the scheme are linked to Moy Park farmers.
The inquiry has already heard evidence of how the company was able to save money on its vast heating bills for poultry sheds after its farmers began to receive the lucrative RHI subsidy – meaning that the money went initially to the farmer, but ultimately benefited the company.
Mr Hamilton revealed two other contacts with Moy Park where he believed that the company acted inappropriately.
He said that he met with the then Moy Park chief executive Janet McCollum and senior executive Mike Mullan on November 30 2016 during a visit to their company headquarters in Dungannon.
He said that he was “surprised RHI was raised at all and especially in the context of Moy Park seeking a new RHI scheme for Northern Ireland as they considered local growers to be at a disadvantage compared to their operations in England. I was aghast at them raising the issue at all and especially in the way they did”.
Mr Hamilton said that Mr Mullan then contacted his constituency office in January 2017, something he felt was “inappropriate” in the circumstances, “especially given their express intention was to discuss RHI”.