Frustrated, Disillusioned and Anxious, An RHI Wife’s View on the past 3 years. 

Reality… Nearly twenty years ago I married a farmer and have enjoyed setting up home with our family.  Over the years I have watched my husband with admiration as he grew his family’s farm business alongside his father.  Together, they have worked hard with honesty and integrity.  They have expanded the business and secured financial stability for both families. Business decisions have been made wisely and honestly, considering both the pros and the cons carefully before undertaking any financial burden. Both men are greatly respected in their local community.  I have complete confidence in my husband. Any business decisions he has made have been worked through carefully.  When happy to proceed, investment has been made with reassurance of the ability to repay any loans and still support our family financially.

We signed up to the Government-run Scheme for renewable heat.  We made huge financial investments with reassurance that we could repay the loans for installing biomass boilers, sheds to hold the boilers, engaged professions to make the installation of all the correct pipework, made proper application for appropriate paperwork etc.  All was done so we could participate in the scheme diligently, lawfully and comply with the scheme in a responsible way.  We had full assurance that the government would honour their side of the contract. We would be paid the subsidy we were due as legitimate boiler owners.  As we believed that they would keep to their side of the contract, we would honour ours.

How wrong our assumptions were!

What has occurred over the past 3 years has devastated us.  It has caused much heartache and stress and shaken our confidence in the government and in the community that we live in.

Horrendous… When RHI was initially brought to the attention of the media the fall-out caused us much undeserved pain.  Without investigation into the full story, boiler owners were presented to the general public as greedy, dishonest and selfish.  This is so far from the truth.  From the start of this episode I have watched the integrity of my honest husband to be in question and the media make accusation that all recipients of the scheme behaved unlawfully and with ill-intent and greed. It’s heart wrenching when none of that is true.  Firstly, names were listed in the public domain with no information other than the amount of money received from the government.  These figures gave no indication of the huge investments made and continued running costs. This was the Department’s underhand way of treating many honest, lawful participants as scapegoats.  Turning the spotlight from themselves to the participants of the scheme in an attempt to cover up what now has been shown as their gross incompetency.  Following this, we watched as the government bodies changed the goal posts, reducing the tariff and putting ourselves and many others under financial strain.  Over time this same government body has been exposed as incompetent, not only in how they delivered the scheme but also their inability to honour the contract they made with us.   They face the challenge of what to do with a £400m underspend over 15 years, whilst we face the challenge of how to pay the bank this week.  The reduction in rebate has been horrendous.  We are now receiving 1/10 of the sum on which our loans were secured.

Investigation has been made through the ‘RHI Inquiry’ and the report will be released this week.  Obviously, I have many concerns over the outcome of the Inquiry report. Will all the wrongs be made right?  I not only have concern for the RHI scheme but also over how our whole country is governed.  The Civil Servants may have moved on or retired but, the same political overlords and over-seers are back in place.

As a primary health care professional, I have a duty of care to my patients and a duty of responsibility to the body of health professionals that I represent. Beyond that I have a duty to continue my professional training and development and cannot practise unless I do so.  If I am negligent in any-way I will be declared unfit to practise or heavily fined.  I cannot practise without qualification and cannot continue to practise without continued training, development and assessment of my capabilities as a health care professional.  In seeking to draw a comparison with our government bodies who have a duty of care for all people of Northern Ireland, I should be able to draw parallels. I am unable to do so.  As political mandate is not the same as an inquisitive mind, an ability to foresee consequences and a preparedness to truck no nonsense from the “professionals” who managed and now continue to manage the green-energy Scheme.

The people employed by the Government have a duty of care for those under them and a responsibility to carry out their work with professionalism, integrity and honesty.  A most responsible job.  There are too many who have no qualification to carry out the jobs they are doing and no foresight or awareness of the consequence of their actions. I hope the Inquiry highlights some of this and the government can start to assess their own competency in leading our country in an honest and right way for the best of the people they serve.

Was it the green-energy scheme that failed in 2012 or, the whole system of our government?

I also have concern that the Government body be allowed to get away with the things that they have done.  The government has a responsibility to act in wisdom and care for their people.  The Department has turned their backs on those they have a contract with.  They acted shamefully and they projected their mistakes on us and deflected their shame to us.  As participants in the RHI scheme we have been subjected to much hatred.  The general public, poorly informed about the truth of the matter, could only see what the Department wanted them to see.  Again and again the government have acted with gross incompetency.  They have made careless decisions and tried to cover over their mistakes.  The fall-out from that has been that many business owners and families like our own have had to suffer psychological and financial stress.  We now stand in the position of financial loss and will struggle to repay huge existing loans.  We have had to endure public backlash due to misunderstanding.  The whole episode has affected our family’s physical, psychological and emotional well-being through no fault of our own.  Is it too much to ask for justice and for the government to act responsibly?  We have held to our part of the contract, acting lawfully and committing to the scheme the government set up.  Government, it’s now your turn to carry out your duty of responsibility and make this right.

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The article above is reflective of how the affected families feel.

1,100 businesses are now at risk, guarantees have been breached, there have been business casualties, personal tragedies and failures.

In government, the mantra is that lessons will be learned.

Setting aside the political dog—fighting that passes for government in Northern Ireland, did no-one think to check how this had happened once before and how failures within a huge UK Government Department, the Department of Energy & Climate Change.

The court of public opinion will move on.  The participants must now seek recourse through the Courts.

Andrew Trimble is the Chair of the Renewable Heat Association NI (RHANI) –  the association formed to protect the rights of Scheme participants.  www.rhani.org/news

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