Northern Ireland news

Confidence in the Executive 'has been dented by RHI scandal'

Stormont's Public Accounts Committee has been holding an inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive

POLITICAL reaction to Jonathan Bell's claims about Arlene Foster's role in the RHI scandal has been swift.

There have been calls for First Minister Arlene Foster to stand aside during the investigation as well as stand down and a number of party leaders have said the fall-out from the botched heating scheme has damaged public confidence in the Executive.

 

Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy

The assembly member said confidence in the devolved administration "has been dented very badly".

Mr Murphy said RHI "was flawed from its inception" and called for an independent investigation.

"We need to get to the bottom of this and hold those responsible for this mess to account as a matter of urgency in order to restore public confidence.

"There needs to be an independent investigation into this in which all information, including internal departmental papers, records, and email trails should be fully disclosed by all of those involved."

 

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long

Ms Long called for a judge-led inquiry.

"Given the limitations which we have seen previously with Public Accounts Committee inquiries and the significant sums of public money involved, we believe that an independent judge led inquiry may now be the only means of establishing the objective facts in a manner which is capable of restoring public confidence in the devolved institutions."

Ms Long said Ms Foster "should step aside" for the duration of any investigation "and all paperwork and correspondence relating to RHI should be released publicly".

 

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

Mr Eastwood said the first minister "should step aside for a period" and called for a public inquiry as "the public desperately need some confidence put back into our institutions".

"The most important things to know are who designed this scheme, why was it designed differently from the British scheme, who benefited from the scheme and at how many different points could this scheme have been stopped," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

 

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt

Mr Nesbitt said the Public Accounts Committee needs to speak to five special advisers - Dr Andrew Crawford, Stephen Brimstone, Richard Bullick, Timothy Johnston and Timothy Cairns.

He called for all the paperwork relating to the scheme to be made public.

"If that happens, I am in no doubt whatsoever that Mrs Foster will have been seen to have made policy decisions which resulted in the situation where we are currently looking at a £400m overspend."

He also urged the first minister to step aside while claims were investigated.

 

TUV leader Jim Allister

Mr Allister said the DUP faithful were trying to protect the first minister.

He said a judge-led inquiry would take place in a "normal society... but I'm not sure that we will get that".

"I am also conscious of the cost that that would add."

 

DUP assembly member Sammy Wilson

Mr Wilson said he didn't believe "there is any need for a public inquiry".

"An adviser is there to advise, you can show the adviser the door any time you want," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

"A minister is there to make the decisions - special advisers don't make the decisions."

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