20/12/2016

Speaker Writes To MLAs Following RHI Speech

The Speaker of the Assembly Robin Newton has written to MLAs after First Minister Arlene Foster was allowed to make a speech about the controversial Renewable Heat Incentice (RHI) scheme on Monday, 19 December.

However, the speech was not approved by deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

In his letter Mr Newton wrote that he was in a "difficult situation" and said he will be raising the issue further with ministers.

Meanwhile, Mrs Foster will not be forced to stand down after a motion of no confidence failed to pass on a cross-community basis despite receiving the support from the majority of MLAs present.

Alliance Leader Naomi Long said: "This is not about any individual but the integrity of the wider institutions, and the anger, weariness and disgust people have towards them.

"However, instead of the promised Ministerial statement from the First and deputy First Minister on how to recover the money lost due to this botched scheme, the First Minister decided to take to the floor as an individual Minister, breaking her joint office, to launch broadsides against her erstwhile colleague and political opponents.
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"If she wished to, the First Minister could have demonstrated leadership by voluntarily stepping aside and initiating a short, time-bound, independent and judge-led inquiry into this matter. But rather by her approach, she has compromised the Speaker, the Executive Office and the wider power-sharing institutions by firstly breaking the joint nature of her Department and then not taking the opportunity to stand aside while an investigation takes place."

Mr McGuinness said: "Sinn Féin will be bringing forward a motion in early January, which deals comprehensively with the substantive issues surrounding this debacle. The motion includes three key elements.

"First there needs to be a robust time-framed, transparent and independent investigation.

"Secondly we need proposals from the Finance Minister and the Economy Minister to reduce the losses to the public purse from this disastrous scheme.

"And thirdly we believe while this is going on that the First Minister should stand aside during this process.

"It is a strong and reasonable approach and we are calling on the other parties to support our motion in January."

(CD)

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