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UUP's Doug Beattie asks 'good DUP MLAs to have quiet word with Arlene Foster' and tell her to stand aside

By Jonny Bell

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie has appealed to the "good DUP members" in the Assembly to "have a quiet word" with Arlene Foster to encourage her to stand aside for the investigation into the Renewable Heating Incentive scandal.

After a week of mounting pressures on the First Minister, the Assembly Speaker and the institutions themselves, the decorated war hero has called for Mrs Foster to stand aside "so that we can work to regain credibility".

"There are good DUP MLAs," he told the Belfast Telegraph, "and they know she is dragging the country down.

"The First Minister needs to show the moral courage and put the country first and those in the DUP that know it need to quietly - there does not need to be a fanfare - say to her to stand aside.

"It is not about her losing her job. It is about her allowing an investigation and getting this mess sorted out. We need to restore credibility and quickly."

Mrs Foster has faced mounting questions over her role in the Renewable Heating Incentive scheme and its flawed inception.

Under RHI, businesses were able to make significantly more money than they were paying out - an estimated £1.60 for every £1 spent on fuel - which encouraged many to generate unneeded heat and still make a profit. Claims of abuse include a farmer set to pocket around £1m over the next 20 years for heating an empty shed.

It is predicted to cost the Northern Ireland taxpayer £400million.

On Monday, a special sitting of the Assembly descended into farce when Speaker Robin Newton allowed First Minister Arlene Foster to address the chamber to make a statement on the scheme without the deputy First Minister's consent.

The DUP leader addressed a chamber devoid of MLAs from any other party bar her own.

Questions have been raised as to if a precedent has been set by allowing one minister to make a statement without the authority of the other in the joint office.

The Speaker, however, rejected this saying he ensured the rules of the house were followed and no precedent had been set.

Mrs Foster, who survived a subsequent vote of no confidence, has always stood over her actions as Enterprise Minister when the scheme was devised and implemented.

Mr Beattie added: "Confidence and credibility in the devolved institutions are at stake - and it is incredibility disturbing.

"When Gerry Adams has the audacity to tell you to stand down, it shows you have allowed him the moral high ground.

"The DUP has handed the trump card to the Sinn Fein. They will decide what happens now, if the institutions collapse. And she needs to wrestle back the initiative."

Prior to the scandals of recent weeks, Mr Beattie said he thought the Assembly had been "going well".

"Government was strong," he continued, "ok I didn't like the direction they were going in but they were united.

"It was nearly normalised politics. We have an Opposition that is new and learning, but holding them to account.

"And in the last four weeks it has shown itself to be an iceberg. All the issues are beneath the surface.

"They are not talking, they are not sharing and they are all in their ministry silos.

"And this does not serve the country or its individuals well."

He added: "I took a pay cut to become an MLA - it's not about money, prestige or sitting on the hill with certain people.

"It's about helping the people of Upper Bann for me, and then wider for all the people of Northern Ireland.

"And if they don't have faith in the institutions then they are being undermined.

"And that really drags me down."

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