Belfast Telegraph

RHI scandal: Aversion and cynicism to the fore after an extraordinarily depressing week in venomous bear pit that is Northern Ireland politics

Editor's Viewpoint

By the extraordinary standards of Northern Ireland politics, the events of the last few days have been totally remarkable.

The bitter confrontations between former allies and the fast-moving developments which could threaten Stormont are like a TV drama.

Almost 250,000 people watched on Thursday night as First Minister Arlene Foster and former minister Jonathan Bell displayed such venom towards one another. It is highly likely quite a number of viewers were under 25, and part of the post-Good Friday Agreement generation. Some may have been considering a career in politics in the 'new' Northern Ireland. What are they thinking now?

We have to ask if our politics is mired in total apathy, or even worse, in aversion and cynicism.

The scale and calamatous nature of the Renewable Heating Incentive scandal and the £400m committed to 'cash for ash' is a fiasco. It reflects badly on our governing classes and their failure to prevent this catastrophe. This has had bizarre results, including Thursday's BBC NI programme and the sight of Mr Bell on his knees in prayer before his interview, as well as the naked hostility of the main participants.

This in turn has led to the grave development where Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has asked Mrs Foster to step aside during a possible inquiry, and receiving a salty reply that she had no intention of doing so.

All of this underlines that politics here can be a real bear pit, often more brutal and dramatic than the fiction portrayed on television. This latest 'Stormontgate' has all the trappings of The West Wing or The Thick Of It, with the details of 'Spads', confrontation and back room machinations.

However, is it all that glamorous ? There is a compelling case for a public inquiry that might, just might, make our politics more effective and transparent.

One wonders, however, if all this will turn off our young, aspiring politicians at a time when we badly need new talent.

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