The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it is disappointed the Department for the Economy (DfE) has chosen to publish information about the participants in the renewable heat incentive (RHI) scheme. UFU chief executive, Wesley Aston, has questioned the department’s intentions in doing so. “The media focus on RHI has been intense and many legitimate participants have been unfairly targeted. The faults with this scheme lie solely with those that created it. Publishing the names of participants deflects attention from the major failings of civil servants. This only serves the interest of the department, not the wider public.”
Aston said that by publishing the list, DfE has only given half the story. “The list doesn’t show the considerable financial investments made by participants or the associated running costs. Notably absent too are the public bodies benefiting from RHI. If publishing this list was in the true interest of the public, surely they deserve the full story.”
A recent report by PWC vindicated poultry and mushroom farmers involved. Aston said that report, which was largely ignored by the media, cleared these farmers of all suggestions they had misused the RHI scheme. “The media has little interest in the positive side of the RHI scheme. Instead we have seen legitimate users vilified on the basis of claims now shown to be unfair and inaccurate. I believe this is not only shameful, but a sad reflection of how the mainstream media now reports events,” said Aston.
The UFU has also again questioned the arbitrary withholding of payments for many months. “If there was any suggestion that people were not complying with the agreements they signed with the government, this would be understandable. However, this has been shown to not be the case. We will be applying pressure to restore these payments immediately, given that businesses are facing cash flow problems because of what is clearly now an unfair decision by officials,” said Aston.