Finance minister has ‘further issues’ over Moy Park and RHI cash for ash

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One of Mid Ulster’s largest employers has met officials from two executive departments over the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

Hundreds of farmers supplying chickens to the poultry processing company Moy Park are recipients of the heating subsidy.

Earlier Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said the meeting had raised “fresh concerns” over the operation of the scheme.

Poultry farmers use the wood chip boilers to heat the buildings where chicks are housed.

Many took advantage of the scheme to replace LPG heating systems.

It has also emerged that civil servants warned former enterprise minister Jonathan Bell that a surge in demand for poultry shed heating systems was rapidly driving up the cost of Stormont’s botched green energy scheme.

In July last year – months before spending on the lucrative £1.2 billion scheme was finally curbed – officials within the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Deti) sent Mr Bell an urgent memo highlighting the spiralling cost of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

Although the names of the 2,000-odd RHI claimants have not been made public, it is understood the list includes a high number of poultry farmers.

In his statement, Mr Ó Muilleoir said the Moy Park briefing with his officials had raised “further issues”.

But in a statement the company made no reference to any concerns about the operation of the scheme.

It said it had met officials from the departments of economy and finance in order to help find a solution “to secure the Northern Ireland RHI scheme within budget”.

It said it had extensive experience of “benchmarked energy use” in the poultry industry.

Moy Park said it advocated “responsible use of heat”.

The finance minister also said cost control proposals had been submitted to his department by Department of Economy officials on Monday evening only to be withdrawn 10 minutes later.

Mr Ó Muilleoir has already described the proposed cost control measures as a “sticking plaster”.

He said he wasn’t interested in a “botched solution to the RHI scandal”.