Northern Irish government apologises to Stephens over green subsidy claim

The Northern Irish government has apologised to Stephens Catering Equipment for misreporting its green energy subsidy claim.

A Northern Ireland government department has apologised to Stephens Catering Equipment after stating that the distributor received 10 times more money under the Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme than it actually did.

In publishing a list of businesses participating in the green energy subsidy in March, the Department for the Economy incorrectly said that the Ballymena-based dealer ran five RHI boilers and had been paid a total of £228,862.38.

It has now amended the list to reflect that the distributor only has one RHI boiler and has received £20,252.76.

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A departmental statement said: “The Department wishes to apologise for any distress or inconvenience that has been caused by incorrect information being published.”

No wrongdoing was alleged against any business or organisation named on the department’s list.

Stephens Catering MD Paul Caves told the Belfast Telegraph: “People make mistakes, we are just glad it has now been rectified. It has taken a while to come but at least it has now come eventually.

“We hope our reputation hasn’t been damaged too badly and now we can move on and get on with doing what we do – supplying and servicing catering equipment.

“At least it has now been rectified and I appreciate that.”

Former Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) first minister Arlene Foster established the RHI scheme in 2012 when she was enterprise minister in a bid to move from fossil to renewable energy sources.

However, flaws in the scheme’s design meant recipients were able to earn more than it cost to fuel the boilers, leading to allegations of a ‘cash for ash’ scandal.

The overspend has been estimated at £490m over the next 20 years, though a former DUP economy minister has taken steps to try to mitigate that commitment.

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