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Northern Ireland news

John Manley: First minister can't ignore this whistleblower

Arlene Foster (First Minister NI) and Jonathan Bell at Wrightbus in Ballymena along with Boris Johnson

Jonathan Bell is the whistleblower that Arlene Foster can't ignore.

He claims the DUP leader pressured him to keep the Renewable Heat Incentive open in February and that months before her special adviser and his counterparts from the then First Minister Peter Robinson's office used their influence to keep the lucrative elements of the scheme in place.

It's an omnishambles for the DUP with Mrs Foster fighting for her political career on a number of fronts.

 

Her assertions about contact from whistleblowers lack clarity while she has yet to satisfactorily deflect her rogue colleague's claims about interventions by spads. But in a typically obstinate and unapologetic fashion Mrs Foster is determined to stick to her story that the scheme's shortcomings were not of her making.

In the immediate future she will hope there are no further revelations but there will be no escaping the heat of the assembly on Monday when MLAs reconvene for a special sitting focusing solely on RHI.

If she begins 2017 as DUP leader, Mrs Foster will be facing the prospect of a far-reaching inquiry into this costly debacle that will seek to apportion blame in a manner the current Public Accounts Committee can not.

In the coming days and weeks, she'll be hoping Sinn Féin will give her some cover yet under the circumstances that'll be difficult to rely on.

Arlene Foster speaking to the Irish News in October about the RHI scheme:

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