Motion of no confidence in First Minister Arlene Foster defeated in Assembly
DUP leader says lack of control in RHI scheme her "deepest regret"
A motion of no confidence in First Minister Arlene Foster has been defeated in the Assembly.
Seventy-five MLAs voted in the matter. Of which 39, or 52%, voted in favour. However, the motion was defeated as it did not obtain cross-community backing.
Stormont was plunged into crisis after all members - except those in the DUP - walked out ahead of a disputed statement by Mrs Foster on her role over the Renewable Heating Incentive. Unprecedented scenes saw the DUP leader Arlene Foster address empty benches in the chamber, with only her party faithful remaining in their seats. On Monday afternoon a motion of no confidence made in Assembly. Follow the live updates below:
Stormont's First Minister launched a blistering attack against political rivals and the media as she defended her handling of a botched green energy scheme.
DUP leader Arlene Foster denounced opposition parties as "irrelevant and impotent" as she responded to an Assembly motion of no confidence in her.
"For almost two weeks I have listened on an almost daily basis to lies presented as facts, the truth distorted out of all recognition and a public narrative created and relentlessly pursued which bears no relationship to reality," she said.
All other parties in the Assembly - including the DUP's partner in government, Sinn Fein - have called on her to stand down pending an independent probe into an error-ridden scheme that has landed the Northern Ireland taxpayer an estimated bill of £400 million.
The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) was due to offer a proportion of the cost businesses had to pay to run eco-friendly boilers, but it ended up paying significantly more than the cost of fuel, enabling applicants to "burn to earn" - getting free heat and making a profit as they did it.
Claims of widespread abuse include a farmer allegedly set to pocket around £1 million in the next 20 years for heating an empty shed. Mrs Foster was the minister in charge of the scheme at its inception.
Assured of the party strength to defeat the SDLP motion of no confidence, Mrs Foster branded it a "kamikaze" attempt at a "constitutional coup d'etat".
"I have to say it's a coup d'etat more worthy of a Carry On film," she added.
The DUP leader said she would not run away from her responsibilities.
"I remain as committed today as I did on the day I was elected as First Minister to fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith."
All non-DUP MLAs had earlier walked out of the chamber ahead of a statement by Mrs Foster.
The bitter row unfolded after Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness withdrew his approval for Mrs Foster to appear to explain her role in the RHI.
All statements by Mrs Foster and Mr McGuinness's joint office need the support of both sides of the power-sharing executive.
Mr McGuinness's move prompted members from all parties but the DUP to question the validity of Mrs Foster's appearance.
It led to the bizarre situation of Mrs Foster giving a statement to a three-quarters empty chamber and then answering questions tabled by her own members.
The majority of absent MLAs returned later for the motion of no confidence debate. SDLP leader Colum Eastwood tabled the proposal.
"This is biggest public finance scandal ever to hit these institutions," he said.
"As this scandal has unfolded it has suited some to muddy the waters but we must not be distracted.
"So far, digging into this scandal has uncovered staggering incompetence - digging deeper has the potential to uncover corruption."
Mr Eastwood said Mrs Foster must do the "dignified and decent" thing and stand down.
"We can't go on like this. The longer the First Minister clings on the more her credibility will fade," he said. "And let me assure the First Minister, Christmas will not save her."
The SDLP later said in a statement: "As of this moment, Arlene Foster no longer enjoys the support of the Assembly as First Minister.
"The First Minister lost today’s confidence vote, even in spite of a disappearing act from Sinn Féin who talked tough but went missing when it counted. Despite saying that Arlene Foster should stand aside, Sinn Féin couldn’t muster a single member to vote to stand her aside. People will cast their own judgment on that particular abdication of responsibility.
2Over £400m of taxpayer’s money has gone up in smoke. When the budget is presented in January, that will manifest itself in cuts to already stretched public services. This situation is not going away and Christmas will not save the First Minister.
"What is needed now is a judge led public inquiry will full powers to compel evidence and witnesses. The SDLP will now begin to chart an alternative way to hold this government to account."
The "cash for ash" scandal reached fever pitch last week when former DUP economy minister Jonathan Bell broke ranks to level a series of claims against his leader and party advisers.
In a TV interview, a tearful Mr Bell said God told him to come clean as he claimed a "highly agitated and angry" Mrs Foster demanded he keep the RHI open for an extra fortnight despite its huge losses.
Mrs Foster strongly rejected the claims. Mr Bell was suspended by the party over the weekend.
On Monday, Mr Bell claimed he had an email containing critical information about the scandal. He said he was being prevented from publishing details of the message and called for that ban to be lifted.
Much of the scrutiny on Mrs Foster has focused on how she responded to concerns raised by a whistleblower during her time as economy minister.
There was a flurry of claims last week about whether the individual raised concerns directly to Mrs Foster, or if she only outlined them after Mrs Foster passed her on to meet officials.
The DUP published an email from the whistleblower last week that made no mention of her RHI concerns - the party cited it to demand an apology from those who said she should have done more.
Another email has since emerged, sent directly to Mrs Foster in 2013, that raised specific concerns about the scheme.
During her statement, Mrs Foster said of the whistleblower: "She deserves our high respect and a sincere apology on behalf of my former department, which should not have dismissed her claims with disbelief, but examined them with diligence.
"It is no exaggeration to say that had she been listened to on any of the three occasions when she approached DETI, this crisis would have been avoided."
Regarding what information was passed directly to her, she added: "Unfortunately, it has been difficult to establish the exact facts around contact between this concerned citizen and myself and the department."
How each MLA voted in motion
Mr Steven Agnew Other AYE
Mr Steve Aiken OBE Unionist AYE
Mr Andy Allen Unionist AYE
Mr Jim Allister Unionist AYE
Mr Sydney Anderson Unionist NO
Ms Kellie Armstrong Other AYE
Mr Alex Attwood Nationalist AYE
Ms Clare Bailey Other AYE
Mrs Rosemary Barton Unionist AYE
Mr Doug Beattie MC Unionist AYE
Mr Roy Beggs Unionist AYE
Mr Maurice Bradley Unionist NO
Ms Paula Bradley Unionist NO
Ms Sinéad Bradley Nationalist AYE
Ms Paula Bradshaw Other AYE
Mr Keith Buchanan Unionist NO
Mr Thomas Buchanan Unionist NO
Ms Joanne Bunting Unionist NO
Mrs Pam Cameron Unionist NO
Mr Gerry Carroll Other AYE
Mr Alan Chambers Unionist AYE
Mr Trevor Clarke Unionist NO
Mr Stewart Dickson Other AYE
Mrs Jo-Anne Dobson Unionist AYE
Mr Gordon Dunne Unionist NO
Mr Mark Durkan Nationalist AYE
Mr Alex Easton Unionist NO
Mr Colum Eastwood Nationalist AYE
Dr Stephen Farry Other AYE
Mr David Ford Other AYE
Mrs Arlene Foster Unionist NO
Mr Paul Frew Unionist NO
Mr Paul Girvan Unionist NO
Mr Paul Givan Unionist NO
Mrs Brenda Hale Unionist NO
Mr Simon Hamilton Unionist NO
Ms Claire Hanna Nationalist AYE
Mr David Hilditch Unionist NO
Mr William Humphrey Unionist NO
Mr Ross Hussey Unionist AYE
Mr William Irwin Unionist NO
Mr Danny Kennedy Unionist AYE
Mrs Emma Little Pengelly Unionist NO
Ms Carla Lockhart Unionist NO
Mr Phillip Logan Unionist NO
Mrs Naomi Long Other AYE
Mr Trevor Lunn Other AYE
Mr Gordon Lyons Unionist NO
Mr Chris Lyttle Other AYE
Mr Eamonn McCann Other AYE
Mr Nelson McCausland Unionist NO
Mr Daniel McCrossan Nationalist AYE
Mr Patsy McGlone Nationalist AYE
Mr Colin McGrath Nationalist AYE
Miss Michelle McIlveen Unionist NO
Mr Harold McKee Unionist AYE
Mr Justin McNulty Nationalist AYE
Mr Richie McPhillips Nationalist AYE
Mr Adrian McQuillan Unionist NO
Ms Nichola Mallon Nationalist AYE
Mr Gary Middleton Unionist NO
Lord Morrow of Clogher Valley Unionist NO
Mr Gerry Mullan Nationalist AYE
Mr Mike Nesbitt Unionist AYE
Mrs Sandra Overend Unionist AYE
Mrs Jenny Palmer Unionist AYE
Mr Edwin Poots Unionist NO
Mr George Robinson Unionist NO
Mr Alastair Ross Unionist NO
Mr Philip Smith Unionist AYE
Mr Christopher Stalford Unionist NO
Mr Mervyn Storey Unionist NO
Ms Claire Sugden Unionist NO
Mr Peter Weir Unionist NO
Mr Jim Wells Unionist NO