Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams urges Arlene Foster to 'do right thing' and stand aside for RHI probe

Neither public nor Sinn Fein can continue to countenance the manner in which DUP conduct business within Executive and Assembly, says Gerry Adams.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said the devolved institutions are at a "defining point" and urged First Minister Arlene Foster to "do the right thing" and step aside for the investigation into the Renewable Heating Incentive scheme.

Writing in his weekly Andersonstown News column, the Louth TD said the current crisis circling the devolved institutions could be sorted but only without Arlene Foster in the Executive office until a preliminary report can be published.

The Assembly is set to debate the matter when it reconvenes after its Christmas break with Sinn Fein tabling a motion calling for Mrs Foster to stand aside for a inquiry into the matter which could cost the Northern Ireland taxpayer over £400m.

Although the DUP have vowed to cut the overspend of the scheme to zero.

Gerry Adams said the behaviour of the DUP over RHI and other matters had brought the institutions to a "defining point".

He wrote: "Sinn Fein has kept faith with the political institutions because we are mandated to do so. For almost 10 years Martin McGuinness and our Assembly team have navigated a way through a number of crises and scandals.

"A lot of good work has been done by the Executive and the Assembly and significant progress has been made on many issues, including on cross border and all-Ireland matters. 

"On other issues there has been little or no progress. I'm thinking here of the long standing absence of a Bill of Rights. There has also been a shameful lack of respect accorded to the Irish language and to those citizens who wish to live their lives through Gaeilge.

"The reprehensible decision on the eve of Christmas to cut funding for the Líofa programme is just one example of this."

He continued: "Among other examples of DUP messing have been the decision to renege on the Programme for Government commitment on the Long Kesh site, the DUP’s resistance to the legacy and truth recovery mechanisms of the Stormont House agreement and the Project Eagle debacle.

"These issues, and the previous Christmas time crises, mean that even before the emergence of the RHI scandal the behaviour of the DUP had already led to a considerable lack of public confidence in the institutions.

"The RHI scandal and the manner in which the DUP has handled it, has significantly deepened a crisis that already existed.

"When the Assembly resumes a Sinn Fein motion on the RHI scheme will be debated. It is a common sense proposal which comprehensively addresses the many issues which have given rise to public concern.

"It calls on the First Minister to stand aside in order to facilitate an independent, time-framed, robust and transparent investigation and until a preliminary report is presented.

"It will also propose that this investigation would be undertaken by an independent judicial figure from outside this jurisdiction and with the power to compel witnesses and documents.

"Over the Christmas break Sinn Fein took legal advice on the potential efficacy of our proposals. That advice, and we have accepted it, pointed to the need to address in clear terms the issue of compelling persons and papers in any investigation to make it effective.

"But whatever the outcome of that debate the reality is that the political institutions have reached a defining point. Neither the public nor Sinn Fein can continue to countenance the manner in which the DUP conduct business within the Executive and the Assembly.

"Can this be sorted out? Of course it can. That would require Arlene Foster to do what Peter Robinson did.  She should step aside to facilitate an independent process which gets to the facts of the RHI scandal effectively and quickly.

"This is a straight forward case. The First Minister has been in office for a relatively short time. If she wants to continue in that office she needs to do the right thing."

More: Timeline: How Renewable Heat Incentive unfolded

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