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Sinn Fein MLA refuses to say if his party will back SDLP motion to suspend First Minister Arlene Foster for six months

A senior Sinn Fein MLA has refused to say whether his party will back an SDLP motion to exclude First Minister Arlene Foster for six months while allegations around the Renewable Heating Initiative are investigated.

Newry and Armagh MLA Conor Murphy said his party wants to see the RHI scandal investigated to restore public confidence in the Executive, but stopped short of backing the SDLP motion.

It is understood Sinn Fein will decide on Monday morning - just hours before MLAs meet to debate the motion - whether they will back it.

Last week Mr Murphy slammed the SDLP motion as "premature".

The motion gained the 30 signatures it needed to be heard in the Assembly on Friday. It has been signed by members of the SDLP, UUP, Alliance, Green Party and People Before Profit.

SDLP's motion to exclude Arlene Foster for six months gains 30 signatures  

This is despite a public call by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness on Friday for Ms Foster to step aside as First Minister while an investigation takes place.

McGuinness calls for Foster to stand aside over RHI scandal  

"We want an independent inquiry," he told the Sunday Politics.

"Martin McGuinness has asked her (Ms Foster) to consider stepping aside.

"Let's see what will happen. As I said earlier I don't believe the DUP are immune to the sense of anger that there is in the community in relation to the scheme. That has been compounded by the spectacle of the First Minister and her party colleague tearing strips off each other and firing allegations around about special advisors.

"If they (DUP) are immune to all of that they are walking into serious difficulties and we are calling on them to do the right thing in relation to this matter.

"Mr McGuinness said to her (Ms Foster) that if he was in her position that's what he would do (step aside for an investigation).

"It is his advice, it is a reasonable request, it has precedent. There has to be recognition that this has gone into a question of confidence in the leadership of the Institutions.

"The relationship (between the DUP and Sinn Fein) is damaged because of the behaviour of the DUP anyway, and what we need to do is to get them to take steps to fix that, and that's what we are asking them to do."

On Friday the DUP issued a statement in response to Mr McGuinness, and said it would not take instruction from Sinn Fein.

Mr Murphy said he is concerned about the effect the RHI scandal is having on public confidence in the Executive.

"This is an issue of confidence in the Executive and how it does business," Mr Murphy said.

"It centres around the DUP, who are our partners in the Executive, that needs to be sorted out and we want to see it sorted out and we want to see that sorted out in a public and transparent way and one that satisfies public opinion and allows the Executive to get on."

Earlier this week Mr Murphy described the SDLP motion as "premature", and claimed it "does not address any of the core issues".

Dodds on offensive over RHI criticism as SF says it won't back no confidence motion  

"The reason for the Assembly meeting on Monday is to allow Members and the public to hear what the First Minister has to say on a matter of grave public concern," Mr Murphy said.

"We also need disclosure of all information and we need to know who benefited from this scheme and why it wasn't brought to a close much earlier."

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