Arlene Foster says 'she won't blink first in Sinn Fein game of chicken' over RHI investigation
Arlene Foster has told Sinn Fein she will not blink first in "their game of chicken" over the investigation into the Renewable Heating Incentive scandal.
Sinn Fein again repeated its call over the weekend for the First Minister to step aside to allow for the investigation into the botched green energy scheme.
Speaking to Rodney Edwards of the Impartial Reporter newspaper in Fermanagh, the DUP leader said Martin McGuinness "may well resign" over the deepening crisis.
She said: "If he is playing a game of chicken, if Sinn Fein are playing a game of chicken and expecting me to blink in terms of stepping aside they they are wrong.
"If there is an election, there is an election and we will be ready for that election as the DUP always are.
"For clarity, I will not be stepping aside.
"I will take my direction from the electorate, certainly not Sinn Fein."
She continued: "We know from history in and around welfare reform, for example, that Sinn Fein make all sorts of threats and make all sorts of points and then they come back to reality and we deal with the solution and we find a solution.
"And that's what we are trying to do.
"I can't answer for Sinn Fein - who knows what their mindset is - what is very clear looking from the outside this is not about the RHI scheme, this is a much wider issue
"They are using RHI to create a political crisis and I really do regret this.
"We want to see enquiry up and running as quickly as possible because we have nothing to hide.
"They are preventing that inquiry by their ludicrous demand that I have to step aside for four weeks.
"So it is they that are holding back their inquiry. And I hope they reflect on that even now and take that nonsense out of terms of reference and allow us to get on with the inquiry.
"There has not been a PAC finding, there hasn't been inquiry finding and due process seems to have completely gone out the window.
"What I am having to deal with is trial by media instead of actually fact-finding and evidence-based investigation and I think that is very regretable.
"For some it's about trying to get a political scalp - and for Sinn Fein they are trying to weaken me and the DUP."
Asked if she took responsibility for the projected overspend, she responded: "No. At the time I was advised in a particular way. That's why I am keen for independent inquiry to get underway so people can understand what went on at that time.
"There has been a lot of smoke and mirrors.
"This is a very complex scheme and I understand people are confused about this scheme, there has been money bandied about. Some people will say we have lost £400m, well we haven't lost £400m as that is the projected spend over 20 years.
"When we talk about welfare reform and the fact we spent £174m because of dithering of the SDLP and Sinn Fein that is money that has been lost to the Northern Ireland Executive.
"One is projected cost which we have to deal with. I am not minimising that but the £174m for welfare reform dithering is the responsibility of the SDLP and Sinn Fein."