‘Cash-for-Ash’ scandal author in Derry on Saturday to sign books

The author of a new book which reveals the inside story behind a scandal that brought down the NI Assembly will be in Derry on Saturday to sign copies of his best-selling exposé.

Friday, 1st November 2019, 1:08 pm
The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal led to the collapse of the powersharing administration at Stormont.

Journalist Sam McBride is the man behind “Burned” which tells the story of the “cash for ash” affair which not only blew a hole in Stormont’s budget but revealed grave failings at the heart of NI’s power-sharing government.

“Burned” is the culmination of almost three years’ work by McBride who uncovered various elements of the scandal and, then, reported in detail on Sir Patrick Coghlin’s public inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme which saw the NI government pay £1.60 for every £1 of fuel the public burned in wood pellet boilers.

The scheme was said to be subject to widespread abuse and, ultimately, led to the collapse of the powersharing administration at Stormont.

DUP leader Arlene Foster giving evidence to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) public inquiry.

Sam McBride, who is the political editor of the ‘Belfast News Letter’, agrees that his book will make for “uncomfortable reading” for some people who, he says, never expected their actions to be exposed.

“Few of us,” he says, “would relish our candid text messages, emails, phone records and flaws being pored over in public as has happened to them.

“But, with the power, prestige and handsome salaries which those individuals enjoyed as public servants comes the requirement to be accountable. Their personal discomfort has to be weighed against the wider public interest, as some of them have come to accept.”

McBride insists he has never set out to speak ill of the DUP - whose current party leader oversaw the RHI scheme - but insists the truth is too important to be the “plaything” of those who either want to conceal the DUP’s role in the affair or to use RHI as a “stick” with which to beat the party.

Sam McBride, author of 'Burned', pictured with his new book at Stormont.

He adds: “To those who have formed a negative view of the DUP based on the actions of some of its members who feature in this story, consider this: key pieces of information in this book have come from DUP members. Some of them spoke publicly at the RHI Inquiry; many others spoke privately to me. Without them, some of what we now know would have forever remained hidden.”

Sam McBride says his book should be read with the knowledge that we all make mistakes.

“I hope the book is not perceived as a puritanical denunciation of those who have erred honestly but as an attempt to understand how and why RHI fell apart.

“It is only by addressing each individual’s role that we can piece together why what now seems obvious did not seem that way to at least some of those most closely associated with the scheme at the time.”

Mr McBride insists NI is not a society “riven with gross corruption”.

“Some of the worst behaviour set out in the book is, in my experience, the exception, rather than the norm.

“It is inaccurate to take the worst practices revealed by RHI and extrapolate that all politicians and civil servants are inept or worse. This is patently not the case - it was politicians and civil servants who, ultimately, played key roles in exposing RHI.”

Sam McBride will be signing copies of ‘Burned’ (Merrion Press) at Eason, Foyleside, on Saturday, November 2, from 3pm.