Monday 25 September 2017

Foster refuses to quit over 'ash for cash' scheme

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster speaking at her office in Stormont Castle. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster speaking at her office in Stormont Castle. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Michael McHugh

Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster has said she will not resign over a failed renewable heating scheme in Northern Ireland.

The overspending project was designed to encourage businesses to switch from burning fossil fuels to wood biomass heating.

But it has left taxpayers with a bill critics claim could reach £400m (€470m).

The DUP leader said she passed on whistleblower concerns raised with her in 2014 to the civil service.

She is also seeking to publish details of all those who benefited.

"I will not be resigning." she said.

"I take the view that a mark of a politician is not made when times are good but when you are faced with challenges.

"I intend to face this challenge and to deal with the issues in front of me and to bring about cost reduction for the scheme."

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) paid out more than the fuel cost, meaning users could earn more the more they burned, leading to claims of an "ash for cash" scam of heating buildings unnecessarily.

For a spell Ms Foster was in charge as enterprise, trade and investment minister.

Ms Foster said officials were to write to those who receive payments asking if their names could be disclosed, as required under data protection rules.

"What is important for us is that we bring forward proposals to the Assembly in early January to make sure that we reduce the potential cost of the scheme to make sure that it does not cost the sort of money that has been talked about," Ms Foster said.

Irish Independent

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