Farmers are being demonised by RHI scandal, says union


Innocent farmers across the North West are being victimised because of the scandal surrounding the RHI Scheme, the Ulster Farmers Union has claimed.

And local farmer and former SDLP Councillor, Thomas Conway, says farmers are being tarred with the same brush because of the action of a tiny minority.

Farmer Thomas Conway

Farmer Thomas Conway

UFU spokesman, Wesley Aston, yesterday said with the Assembly Election campaign under way some politicians are seeking soft targets over the RHI scheme.

“ I would suggest they turn the focus back to where the blame should be – on a poorly designed scheme and the lack of government audits to find and punish those breaking the rules,” he said.

“Instead they are allowing those with things to hide to divert the media into chasing those who have done nothing wrong and who invested a lot of their own money to cut 
costs and to meet the pressures exerted on them by those to whom they sell their end product.

Mr. Conway, who installed a pellet burner at his Co Derry farm 10 years ago, but who is not part of the RHI Scheme, said with Brexit, the timing of the scandal could hardly be worse.

“Farmers are being caught up in this at a time when they really need public support,” he said.

“Brexit is a huge issue for farmers and the agriculture sector not just in Northern Ireland but across the whole of Ireland. We need the support of the consumer.

“I agree with what the UFU is saying. There definitely are individuals who are not acting in the spirit of the scheme, 
but it is important to remember that the vast majority are doing so in good faith. It is the small minority who are causing everyone to be tarred with the same brush.”

The UFU, which represents 11,500 farming families across Northern Ireland, says it is being implied that farmers who legitimately could part in the scheme were doing something wrong.

“It is wrong to see farmers as soft targets and to seek to draw into the scandal people who invested a lot of their own money in boilers to replace other, less efficient, on farm energy sources,” said Mr Aston.

“The UFU has already admitted it pressed for a grace period to allow those with investment plans and capital commitments in place to enter the RHI scheme since this was the basis on which the investment was made.”