Thursday 24 August 2017

Sinn Féin will back plan to recover heat row cash - DUP

DUP MP Sammy Wilson. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
DUP MP Sammy Wilson. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Adrian Rutherford

The DUP has said it is confident that Sinn Féin will support its proposals to claw back the £500m (€585m) overspend in the 'cash for ash' scandal - and that the collapse of the Executive and a snap election will be avoided.

After another day of political drama, Sammy Wilson accused Máirtín Ó Muilleoir of "grandstanding" when the Sinn Féin Finance Minister dismissed the DUP's plan and insisted that, if Arlene Foster didn't temporarily step aside, the Executive would fall.

Mr Ó Muilleoir dismissed a plan to deal with the renewable heating scandal as "nothing but a sticking plaster".

Mr Ó Muilleoir also warned that the political institutions would collapse unless the First Minister stood aside to facilitate an independent investigation into the scandal.

"I still haven't seen a plan, there is no plan. When I went to the meeting, there was no plan ready for me and, in fact, I am told that rather than a solution, we now have an interim solution, a sticking plaster," he said. "By refusing to step aside [Mrs Foster] has sounded the death knell for the Assembly, the Executive and the institutions."

But DUP MP Sammy Wilson said that an Assembly election "isn't the answer".

First Minister of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
First Minister of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Read more: 'Misogyny claim is Foster trying to divert attention from scandal' - SF

"Máirtín Ó Muilleoir's ego is hurt because he wasn't personally involved in drawing up the emergency proposals," he said.

"But I've every confidence that he will settle down and that Sinn Féin will support our plan when the Executive meets next week. I don't for a second believe that Sinn Féin wants to collapse the political institutions."

"An election will solve nothing," he added. "The recent shouting match between ourselves and Sinn Féin is just a blip. We will both get over it."

Mr Wilson said that under the proposals drawn up by Economy Minister Simon Hamilton, the rate of pay to RHI beneficiaries would be reduced.

The SDLP, Alliance, and TUV are deeply sceptical of the viability of the proposals that the DUP claim will reduce the £500m overspend to zero.

All rival parties at Stormont have demanded Mrs Foster stand aside while her role in the affair is investigated. Mrs Foster oversaw the inception of the RHI scheme. She has refused to step aside and has claimed some of those calling for her head are motivated by misogyny.

The RHI was supposed to offer a proportion of the cost businesses had to run eco-friendly boilers, but the subsidy tariffs were set too high, and without a cap, so it ended up paying out significantly more than the price of fuel.

Meanwhile, one former DUP MLA has said he is "unlikely" to remain in the party following his trenchant attack on Mrs Foster over the scandal.

In an article in a Belfast newspaper, former Assemblyman David McIlveen said party members considered Mrs Foster "deeply damaged" and an "electoral liability" due to the fiasco.

Irish Independent

Also in this section