Political news

Little support for Arlene Foster's claims of misogyny over RHI scandal

Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster says calls for her to step down are misogynistic - but not everyone is convinced

Arlene Foster's claims that calls for her to stand down over the RHI scandal are misogynistic have been rejected by Alliance leader Naomi Long and SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon.

The DUP leader said the fact she is the first female to lead the north is an issue with many of those demanding she step aside.

"A lot of it is personal, a lot of it sadly is misogynistic as well because I am a female - the first female leader of Northern Ireland - so I firmly believe that is the case as well," she said.

Speaking to the BBC this morning however, Alliance leader Naomi Long said Ms Foster's claims she has been asked to step aside are because of her gender are "absolutely wrong" and a "distraction tactic".

The East Belfast MLA said the DUP leader did a "disservice to women by playing the misogyny and sexist card".

She told the Stephen Nolan Show: "We have asked the First Minister to step aside without prejudice so that we can investigate, move on, restore confidence and get to the bottom of this.

"If that investigation vindicates Arlene, then she comes back stronger.

"And if it raises more issues then she will have to deal with that.

"But this is not misogynistic, it was the same for Peter Robinson. He voluntarily stood aside to allow for an investigation into what was a much smaller amount of money and came back.

"This is not about misogyny, it is simply about accountability."

Sinn Fein health minister Michelle O'Neill also dismissed the claim as "nonsense".

"Arlene Foster is trying to divert attention away from getting to the truth and holding those responsible to account," Ms O'Neill said.

“This is not a gender issue nor is it an Orange and Green issue. This is about a financial scandal, which has the potential to cost the public purse hundreds of millions of pounds.

“This is about corruption and the misuse of public money in the here and now.

“The key to this is to speedily establish an effective, independent investigation to get to the truth, which stops the loss of public money and restores confidence in the political process.

“Arlene Foster needs to step aside to allow that to happen.” 

SDLP North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon said she refuted the misogyny claims: "Our response to this financial scandal would be exactly the same regardless if it was a man, a woman, whether it was a unionist, a nationalist or whatever their political persuasion.

"This is not about Arlene being a woman or a unionist.

"This is about incompetence with possible corruption.

"This blames everybody but the DUP - but Arlene - is a tactic that is fooling no one."

She continued: "This is about a financial scandal costing the taxpayer potentially £500m.

"It is about finding out how the flawed scheme introduced under Arlene's watch, despite warnings issued that no action taken.

"It is unfortunate we are discussing this matter... which is a distraction, sadly."

Earlier today Ms Foster told Sky News she had no plans to resign, saying: “Simply because I am a woman doesn’t mean I am going to roll over to Sinn Fein – I am not going to roll over to Sinn Fein, I am not going to roll over to my political opponents.”

However, many have voiced doubts about her argument for misogyny. 

Some think that the only way this situation could be perceived as sexist is if Foster wasn’t made accountable for her actions.

There are some who agree with Ms Foster and hope that she remains in power.

There is also an argument that while calls for the first minister's resignation weren’t sexist, the way she has been treated since speaking out certainly has been.

If Sinn Fein follow through with their threats to collapse the Stormont Executive if Ms Foster doesn’t temporarily stand down, Northern Ireland could soon be facing a snap assembly election – less than a year after the last one.

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