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Drop your call for Arlene Foster to step aside, shadow NI Secretary tells Sinn Fein

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Dave Anderson has called on Sinn Fein to drop its demand for the DUP leader to step aside as First Minister during the 'cash for ash' inquiry if Stormont is restored.

The Labour frontbencher, who is standing down at the general election, made the comment as MPs debated the crisis in Northern Ireland this week.

The Labour MP clashed with DUP MPs on a number of issues, including dealing with legacy issues.

But after backing same-sex marriage and legislation on the Irish language, he turned to the scandal of the botched Renewable Heat Incentive, and backed Arlene Foster's position.

"We need the parties to begin to trust each other and to move away from entrenched positions," he said.

"I say clearly to Sinn Fein from the Opposition dispatch box that it should drop its demand for the leader of the DUP to stand aside while the inquiry is going on.

"It should seek assurances from her - I believe she has given such assurances - that she will co-operate fully with the inquiry, accept its outcomes and will not hinder its progress in any way. That would be a huge step in the direction of rebuilding the trust and confidence that have allowed sworn enemies to govern in Northern Ireland during previous years."

Mrs Foster has continually refused to step aside while a public inquiry into the botched scheme is under way. The green energy scheme sparked outrage after it emerged that it will cost the Stormont Executive £500m over the next 20 years.

A DUP spokesman said that the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA has been clear that she will "fully co-operate" with an inquiry and will accept the findings of its report.

Earlier this week Mr Anderson was criticised after he said British soldiers and the security services who served during the Troubles in Northern Ireland should face investigations if they did not act correctly.

He went against pleas from Conservative and DUP MPs who said the police and soldiers who served here should not face fresh probes into their conduct.

Tory James Heappey asked Mr Anderson: "I wonder if you might join me in confirming your belief that the British Army should not be subject to further investigations for the actions that they took during the Troubles?"

Mr Anderson replied: "I think it's quite clear from my point of view that if people in uniform, if they did not act correctly, then I'm sorry, I can't agree that they shouldn't be brought to book."

by cate mccurry

Belfast Telegraph

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