Leading article

Up to Arlene Foster to restore faith in political structures

There is no doubt the Renewable Heat Incentive fiasco and subsequent political fallout has undermined public confidence in our system of government.

Chiefly, this scandal, which will cost the Northern Ireland taxpayer upwards of £400 million over a twenty year period, reflects badly on the DUP, which was in charge of the department running this scheme.

In particular, Arlene Foster's reputation has been severely damaged, not just by her role in overseeing this ill-fated scheme but in her failure to take full responsibility for her actions and deal effectively with the financial and political repercussions.

The first minister's approach has been combative and dismissive, attacking those who dare hold her and the party to account.

A more measured response, recognising the difficulties all this presents and ensuring the support of her partners in government, would have been more astute.

Martin McGuinness has proved himself willing to work with successive DUP leaders, something that cannot have been easy at times.

He has also made overtures to unionists, his meetings with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles an ample demonstration of the efforts he has made to build understanding and mutual respect.

The problem for Sinn Féin is that many nationalists and republicans do not see those positive gestures being reciprocated by the DUP.

Indeed, Paul Givan's small-minded decision to cut £50,000 funding to the Líofa Gaeltacht scheme is being viewed in deeply negative terms.

That said, Sinn Féin have not distinguished themselves in its reaction to the RHI scandal.

Senior figures issuing confused messages on the format of any inquiry has muddied the waters while the party is allowing speculation to grow over a snap election.

It is difficult to see what another bruising and divisive election campaign will achieve in terms of resolving the issues around RHI.

However, it is Arlene Foster's leadership that is in the spotlight and she needs to leave her entrenched position and work out a way forward that satisfies the public's desire for full disclosure and accountability and restores faith in our structures.

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Leading article