Thursday 22 February 2018

'Cash for Ash' row could see power sharing crumble, SF warns Foster

Under pressure: First Minister Arlene Foster. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Under pressure: First Minister Arlene Foster. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Alan Preston

Pressure continued to mount on Arlene Foster last night to stand down as republicans suggested the scandal over a botched energy scheme could collapse Stormont.

Sinn Féin's Declan Kearney MLA warned that the continuing fallout over the Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI), often referred to as 'Cash for Ash', which left Northern Irish taxpayers facing a potential £490m (€575m) bill over the next 20 years, could see power sharing crumble.

Writing in 'An Phoblacht', he said: "Political institutions cease to have value when they do not reflect equality, mutual respect and parity of esteem, and have become detached from the lives of the citizens they are meant to serve.

"The political process has now been dragged recklessly by the DUP, culminating with the RHI crisis towards an unprecedented tipping point."

His comments echoed those of SF's Matt Carthy who told a republican commemoration on Sunday the institutions at Stormont were facing their greatest challenge in a decade.

Opponents, however, claimed Sinn Féin has softened its position in order to strike a deal that would see the crisis defused.

A press release on Mr Kearney's article originally called for a full public inquiry into RHI. But within hours he backtracked to demand a "time-framed, comprehensive, independent investigation - led by an international jurist - to be established".

The party dismissed the change as a mistake, but SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone accused Mr Kearney of "rolling over".

"Sinn Féin is in complete disarray on how to respond to the biggest financial scandal in the history of devolution," he said.

"When the public needs strong leadership, they have met DUP arrogance with equivocation, confusion and weakness."

Mr McGlone said a judge-led public inquiry would bring out the truth of RHI.

Ms Foster told the Assembly before Christmas that her involvement was the biggest regret of her political career.

Irish Independent

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