Belfast vox pop: People speak out on Stormont crisis

McGuinness resignation fallout, cash-for-ash anger and prospect of election focuses minds


The fallout from Martin McGuinness’s resignation as Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland, public anger around the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme debacle (aka cash-for-ash) and the prospect of fresh elections is focusing people’s minds in Belfast.

This is especially as the crisis is taking place in the context of the expected triggering of Article 50 in March to commence the Brexit process, and questions around the future of government in Northern Ireland.

The Irish Times spoke to people passing by City Hall and in the Cathedral Quarter.

Lisa Ross (30), a healthcare assistant from Downpatrick, said: “Sinn Féin and the DUP are not able to sort this out themselves so I feel Martin McGuinness has to resign, to make a stand.

“At the same time they should be old enough and big enough to sort their problems out.

“There has not been any give with the DUP, but at the same time they have to stand their ground with what their beliefs are.

“That’s the thing with shared power, it doesn’t really work.”

Chris Lavery (25), a tour guide from Belfast said: “The way they are talking is green and orange, Sinn Féin want their way and DUP want their way.

“The facts are, the DUP have mismanaged money.

“I think Arlene Foster should have stood aside, and Martin McGuinness wouldn’t have needed to do what he did and another election.

“We have had so many things that could have made Stormont collapse - but at the end of the day it’s a heating grant that has done it.

“Another election isn’t going to help because it is going to be the same people elected unless more people start voting for smaller parties and candidates who can change things.”

Brian Lavery (35), a tour guide from east Belfast, said: “McGuinness quitting is the dummy out of the pram.

“To me it’s a tantrum from Sinn Féin.

“They are looking for an opportunity, maybe thinking because of the political situation in London, it is a good time do do stuff like this.

“With Brexit, people feared the worst and nothing has changed in their lives.

“It might be worse in big business but for the ordinary people, no.

“All the DUP can do is talk and Arlene Foster has done a good job talking so far.

“I have never voted because I see no point in it.”

Geraldine Dale (52), a waitress from the New Lodge in North Belfast said: “I don’t think Martin McGuinness had any other choice but to quit.

“I think one is as bad as the other sometimes, but questions need answered over RHI. It’s our money.

“The money could be better spent than heating empty barns.”

Ollie Woodhouse (21), a bartender from north Belfast, said: “RHI could have been dealt with a lot better.

“The fact that Arlene Foster said it was because she was a woman is complete bullshit.

“She could have just stood aside.

“Sinn Féin have made a decent move, but as usual Northern Ireland politics is a complete mess.”

Brian Johnson (61), from Bangor said: “In my opinion Martin McGuinness should never have been in power, but we had to move on politically.

“I think he was going to go anyway with ill health but it has been done to make it look like he has brought her down.

“I think Arlene is a very strong politician, she is the captain of the ship, but whoever thought up that scheme where you get £1.60 for every £1 - every household would want it.”

Stay-at-home mum Mary Murray (44), from Belfast, said: “I would vote if there was an election.

“Martin McGuinness quitting was the right time, as he is sick as well.

“If it gets some sort of reaction then it’s the right thing. Good on him for doing it now.

“The whole thing with the heating scheme is a farce. Nobody is talking about Brexit.

“Everyone is talking about the heating scheme. People are shocked by it and what people have got away with.”

A Co Antrim man in his 60s said the whole scenario was “a joke”.

“Sinn Féin have taken the right position, they have done the right thing,” he said.

“It’s been Arlene this, Arlene that, Arlene is going nowhere.

“It’s ridiculous. All she had to do was stand aside for a lot of weeks and then if she was clear, she was clear.”

A Belfast businessman in his 60s said: “I think it is ridiculous that someone involved at the start of it won’t step aside for an independent inquiry.

“In any other walk of life, in any other country in the world, whoever was the minister at that time would have.

“RHI is about corruption in public life in Northern Ireland.

“I think there should be a public inquiry and people should be held to account.

“I think Martin McGuinness was between a rock and a hard place, damned if he did, damned if he didn’t.

A retired Newtownabbey man in his 70s said: “I am not interested in Martin McGuinness, he should not have been in power in the first place.

“There has been nothing proven against Arlene Foster but there seems to be an election coming.

“I would vote for Traditional Unionist Voice because Jim Allister seems to speak the truth all the time, what he says happens.”

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