DUP and SF positions on Foster threaten Northern Executive

DUP supports independent inquiry into Renewable Heat Incentive scheme

First Minister Arlene Foster: the DUP has siad she has no intention of standing aside

First Minister Arlene Foster: the DUP has siad she has no intention of standing aside

 

The DUP and Sinn Féin were on Sunday night engaged in a brinkmanship struggle that is threatening the future of the Northern Executive and Assembly, and could lead to early elections.

The Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness repeated his demand on Sunday that DUP First Minister Arlene Foster stand aside pending the outcome of a judiciary-led investigation into the controversial Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

The DUP has confirmed it would support an independent inquiry into the scheme which could cost Northern taxpayers £400 million, but insisted Ms Foster has no intention of standing aside.

If both the DUP and Sinn Féin hold to these positions it could lead to Mr McGuinness resigning as Deputy First Minister, meaning Ms Foster would have to stand aside, which would prompt re-election of a new First Minister and Deputy First Minister, roles which have to be filled at the same time.

If the two parties cannot agree a way forward – as their stances at the moment indicate – then the only option could be fresh Assembly elections in the new year.

Positions

A DUP statement said it supported an independent investigation “free from partisan political interference”, and that it had been working with officials and others on the detail of this over the last few days.

However, Mr McGuinness said Sinn Féin wanted a judicial figure from outside the North to be appointed by the attorney general.

“There is no credibility in an inquiry established solely by the DUP, or in the selective release of some documents by DUP departments.

“If the DUP does take a unilateral approach, disregarding the authority and joint nature of the Executive Office on an issue which is cross-cutting, with massive budgetary implications and which is undermining public confidence in the political institutions, this will have grave consequences.”