Political news

First Minister Arlene Foster says Sinn Féin wrong to play ‘game of chicken'

First Minister Arlene Foster and Finance Minister Simon Hamilton. Picture by Mal McCann

FIRST Minister Arlene Foster says if Sinn Féin is "playing a game of chicken" by calling for her resignation over her role in a botched green energy scheme which could cost the taxpayer £500 million it is making a mistake.

The DUP leader said she will not resign and if Sinn Féin triggers an election her party is ready.

Ms Foster was the minister in charge when the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) was established without a cap on subsidies, leaving the taxpayer facing a multi-million pound bill over the next 20 years.

Speaking to the Impartial Reporter Ms Foster said Sinn Féin is "trying to get a political scalp" while other parties are "trying to weaken me and the DUP".

An election would be triggered if Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned and Sinn Féin did not replace him within seven days. Sinn Féin has warned that an election is inevitable if the first minister does not stand down.

Ms Foster said Mr McGuinness "may well" resign.

“What I say to him is this: if he is playing a game of chicken, if Sinn Féin is playing a game of chicken and they think we are going to blink in relation to me stepping aside they are wrong. I won’t be stepping aside. And if there is an election there is an election and we will be ready for that election, as the DUP always are.”

She added: “Unfortunately they [Sinn Féin] don’t seem to be getting the message. So just for clarity: I will not be stepping aside at the behest of Sinn Féin or indeed any other opposition party. I take my directions from the electorate and certainly not from Sinn Féin.”

The first minister has also penned an article in today's Belfast Telegraph in which she says Sinn Féin is preventing an inquiry getting underway "because of their ludicrous demand that I have to step aside for four weeks".

She said the party's insistence "is a purely political demand and not one that serves any genuine purpose".

"Natural justice would suggest that stepping aside or standing down would come after an adverse finding and not before the process had been commenced."

Ms Foster also said she would have accepted a full public inquiry into RHI.

"I should also say that, while I do not believe that it is the best way to proceed, in order to make progress I could have lived with an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, as proposed by some of the opposition parties."

Irish News political correspondent John Manley speaks to Justice Minister Claire Sudgen:

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