Thursday 14 December 2017

Sinn Féin has 'let DUP off the hook' as heat scheme inquiry on back burner

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt Picture: Getty
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt Picture: Getty

Noel McAdam

Sinn Féin has been accused of letting the DUP "off the hook" over the renewable heat scheme controversy.

The assembly's main opposition party, the Ulster Unionists, also said the status quo of a DUP/Sinn Féin Executive is no longer sustainable.

However, Martin McGuinness's dramatic resignation puts an inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) on the back burner.

The controversy that led to the senior Sinn Féin figure standing down will, in the short term, become a key issue in any election campaign instead.

"This is not the way to resolve the RHI scandal. Sinn Féin should have stayed, to hold the first minister to account, to force a public inquiry and to vote on the much-needed cost controls on the scheme," UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said.

"Instead, they have prioritised self-interest, as always. This is Sinn Féin letting the DUP off the hook. The public mood clearly indicates they want the facts of the RHI debacle exposed.

"To move straight to an election without this taking place is farcical. They had a choice between the integrity of the institutions and electoral advantage and they appear to have chosen the latter."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood echoed Mr McGuinness's insistence that the real reason behind the latest crisis was the "arrogance" of Mrs Foster.

"The public also knows that those behind the 'cash-for-ash' scandal can now enjoy a two-month break from any effective public inquiry or police investigation," he said.

"It ensures no immediate consequences for Arlene Foster, no emergency legislation to cap costs and no investigation into potential corruption. The nationalist community also knows that Sinn Féin has been the lead player in government with the DUP for over a decade.

"Sinn Féin was jointly in control and is therefore jointly responsible."

Alliance leader Naomi Long said DUP arrogance had "recklessly endangered" the political institutions and the resignation "has brought to fruition a crisis which could have been averted with cool heads and calm leadership which put the interests of the people ahead of party political posturing".

In London, Secretary of State James Brokenshire said the most likely way forward is a new election. "I would urge Northern Ireland's political leaders to take the necessary steps to work together to find a way forward," he also said.

Irish Independent

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