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Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams urges Arlene Foster to ‘do the right thing'

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams urged the DUP to use the time over Christmas "wisely". Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

SINN Féin leader Gerry Adams has urged his DUP counterpart to "use the time over the Christmas period wisely and do the right thing".

The Louth TD's call came as Mr Adams's party colleague warned that the Stormont institutions were being jeopardised by First Minister Arlene Foster's refusal to stand down to allow a probe into her handling of the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

Mrs Foster has steadfastly rejected calls to step aside amid the 'cash for ash' crisis that has dominated the news headlines for the past fortnight.

On Monday the DUP leader faced down an SDLP no confidence motion during a day of drama that included a mass walkout from the assembly chamber.

The row is expected to subside over the festive period but Sinn Féin has warned that the scandal that has left Stormont facing a £400m overspend must be urgently addressed early in the new year.

In the wake of Monday's debate Martin McGuinness said his party would bring its own motion, including conditions for a judge-led inquiry, when the assembly reconvened on January 16.

If Mrs Foster continues to resist calls to stand aside Sinn Féin may well walk away from the institutions, triggering an election six weeks later.

When asked if Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness would withdraw if Mrs Foster remains at her desk in January, his party colleague John O'Dowd said: "All options are on the table."

"The loss of public confidence in the political institutions may require that event to happen – that's the reality, that's the depth of the political crisis we are in," the Upper Bann MLA told Radio Ulster.

Speaking in Dublin, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams reiterated the call for Mrs Foster to step down temporarily while an investigation takes place.

"The approach adopted by the DUP is only deepening the crisis and further undermining the institutions," Mr Adams said.

He said the RHI issue was not going away.

"The DUP should use the time over the Christmas period wisely and do the right thing," he said.

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

DUP Economy Minister Simon Hamilton and Sinn Féin Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir are said to be working together on plans to curb the executive's commitment to the scheme.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry blamed the controversy around RHI for delaying the Stormont budget, which was due to be delivered earlier this week.

"This is not something which can wait much into the new year, let alone be dragged out almost up to the beginning of the incoming financial year," he said.

"Resources are already incredibly tight across the public sector, and every ounce of efficiency does need to be squeezed out to maximise the impact on public services and the ability to transform the economy – delays make planning even more difficult, and risk reducing the impact of resources."

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