Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Arlene Foster apologises over RHI scandal at DUP party conference

The DUP leader said she was "deeply sorry" for mistakes made.

By Mark Edwards

DUP leader Arlene Foster has apologised to party members for the RHI scandal.

Mrs Foster, in her speech at the DUP party conference in Belfast, addressed the botched green energy scheme that she signed off on as the Minister for Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

She said some of the decisions made by the DUP during this period "left a lot to be desired" and acknowledged the scandal had "personally hurt and offended" many DUP members, voters and the public.

"The public inquiry has been difficult for many individually and painful for the party collectively," she said.

"No party would want to have all of its dealings exposed for all to see at a public inquiry, especially in the unique system of government we have, with the struggles and strains required to make it work.

"But I make no excuses. Today as leader of the party I apologise. As a party we are deeply, deeply sorry for the mistakes we made, and for the things we got wrong during that period."

The RHI scandal exposed the taxpayer to a huge overspend by paying out more in subsidies than the fuel was worth.

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Arlene Foster giving evidence to the RHI Inquiry

As a result of the scandal a public inquiry, chaired by Sir Patrick Coghlin, was launched to investigate.

Mrs Foster, during several evidence sessions at the inquiry, said she was not aware of the overspend and denied any wrongdoing.

Mrs Foster, in her conference speech, said lessons had to be learned about special advisers, the appointment of ministers, transparency and openness in government and that the civil service had to be reformed.

She added: "We will work hard to make amends and regain the support and trust of those who were upset by what they saw unfolding over the last number of months."

The DUP leader also said over the course of the last year there had been a "number of other areas" where behaviour in the DUP ranks had not matched standards expected by the public.

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DUP MP Ian Paisley apologising to the House of Commons in London for failing to register two family holidays funded by the Sri Lankan government (PA)

It is thought Mrs Foster was referring to the behaviour of DUP MP Ian Paisley, who was slapped with a 30-day suspension from the House of Commons after it emerged he took his family on two holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government and received more than £50k worth of hospitality on the trips.

Mr Paisley was also found to have breached rules on paid advocacy when he lobbied then Prime Minister David Cameron on a UN resolution concerning Sri Lanka.

"We must ensure there is no repeat of such behaviour and that those high standards we aspire to ourselves and that others rightly require of us are applicable at every level within this party," Mrs Foster added.

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