NI: MLA suggests funding rules will ‘gag’ RHI witnesses

Jim Allister
Jim Allister

An MLA has expressed concerns that witnesses in the RHI inquiry could be “gagged” because of rules that allow them to be forced to pay legal fees in certain circumstances, the News Letter reports.

It is expected that most witnesses to the inquiry will have their legal fees paid by the state, but rules allow for the fees to be recouped if the witnesses “act against the interests of the department”.

That has raised concerns about the freedom of witnesses to criticise the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), now the Department for the Economy, at the centre of the scandal.

TUV leader and MLA Jim Allister told the News Letter: “That seems to me to be totally in conflict with the basis of the inquiry which is supposed to be getting to the truth.

“It’s not about protecting the department – if the truth involves criticism of the department from wherever that comes it should be totally unfettered.”

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