Belfast Telegraph

No reason to doubt Arlene Foster is innocent in RHI scandal, says Gerry Adams

By Noel McAdam

Gerry Adams has said he has "no reason to doubt" that Arlene Foster may be innocent in relation to accusations over the "cash for ash" Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.

His remarks were being interpreted as an indication Sinn Fein might, after all, be prepared to allow the Executive to be re-established if a deal can be reached at Stormont in the next nine days.

The Sinn Fein president told the Irish Times that he has had several "businesslike (and) friendly engagements" with the DUP leader since the negotiations began.

Sinn Fein has said it will not nominate for the position of Deputy First Minister if the DUP nominates Mrs Foster for First Minister because of her links to the RHI controversy over which Martin McGuinness resigned, effectively collapsing Stormont and leading to the election.

But Mr Adams said the issue of his party blocking Mrs Foster would not arise until after an agreement to resurrect the Executive had been achieved, and at present there was no sign of it.

He also made clear the inquiry into RHI, which has just got under way and could take more than six months, is essential.

In a generally downbeat assessment, he also accused the British and Irish governments of a lack of commitment towards securing an agreement.

Mr Adams said the Conservatives in London and Fine Gael in the Republic had no real investment in the process and downplayed expectations of a breakthrough when the talks resume next week.

He said British attitudes over Brexit, and in particular removing the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights, could "destroy the Good Friday Agreement".

"The responsibility of the Irish Government and particularly of the Taoiseach is to keep the British Government honest," he said.

Mr Adams has been in Washington for the St Patrick's week events.

He revealed yesterday his party is working on a follow-up to its 'Towards a United Ireland' discussion document.

"It lays out the benefits and outworkings of Unity across a range of areas, including enterprise, health, education, agriculture, energy, infrastructure and taxation on a short/medium and long term basis," he added.

"It is expected that the British Government will trigger Article 50 shortly to commence the negotiations on Brexit.

"This, the Assembly election results which saw the unionist parties lose their Assembly majority; and the announcement by the Scottish First Minister of a second Independence referendum, are the context for the current discussions on a United Ireland."

Mr Adams said Brexit is bad for the island of Ireland.

"The people of the six counties have not consented to being dragged out of the European Union," he added.

"For the British government to ignore this fact flies in the face of the progress that been made in the North since the start of the peace process and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement."

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