Claimants of Northern Ireland’s non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) remain safe from being named publicly ahead of a hearing, a high court has ruled.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, Justice Deeny has confirmed that an interim injunction put in place last week to protect the identities of members of the Renewable Heat Association of Northern Ireland (RHANI) will continue until the outcome of a challenge listed for hearing in three weeks' time.
The judge is reported to have said: "There is no irremediable prejudice to the minister (Simon Hamilton) in requiring him to hold his hand."
The ruling has further scuppered Hamilton’s plans to reveal the names of the businesses claiming under the RHI following mounting pressure after a number of DUP MLAs and others were found to have links with individuals and businesses benefiting from the scheme.
More than 500 RHANI members are protected from having their names published, which their lawyers had claimed would leave them vulnerable to a media “feeding frenzy”.
The court heard yesterday that publishing names of companies in receipt of the RHI subsidy would inevitably lead to the identification of individuals. A search of a public register of companies would provide the names of directors, the judge was told.
Publication would lead to damage that would be "intrusive, widespread and irrevocable" it was claimed.
The court was told that it would also be in breach of their rights under data protection and privacy legislation as well as the terms of their contracts.
The judge said that while extending the interim injunction to the date of the hearing was a "temporary inconvenience" to Hamilton it would "protect possible contractual rights of the applicants".
While the injunction does little to protect the identities of those claimants who were not members of RHANI by 5pm on 24 January when the injunction was enforced, it does set a precedent against Hamilton’s plans to publish full details of everyone benefiting from the scheme.
Despite saying he would publish such information, the DUP economy minister has yet to do so in light of the growing legal challenges against such an action.
A final judgment in the case is expected to be delivered before the elections on March 2.