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RHI Inquiry Report: DUP's 'shameful disrespect' must be put in past, says Sinn Fein's O'Neill

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill has said there can be no return to the "shameful disrespect" shown by the DUP over the Renewable Heat Incentive fallout.

The Deputy First Minister made the comments as the long-awaited inquiry report into the botched green energy scheme arrived, over three years after the Stormont institutions collapsed.

At the time Sinn Fein demanded that DUP leader Arlene Foster step aside as a condition of returning to government.

"The RHI and other DUP financial scandals such as Red Sky and Nama were unacceptable, as was its shameful disrespect to large sections of the community," she said.

"These scandals and the DUP's failure to engage in genuine power-sharing undermined public confidence in the Assembly and the Executive."

Sinn Fein is committed to the political institutions, but they must operate differently from what went before, with a new kind of politics, which is progressive, respectful, and has integrity Michelle O'Neill

She said the public now demanded confidence in their government in several key areas, including discharging duties in good faith, serving all people equally, preventing discrimination and a commitment to genuine power-sharing and mutual respect.

"Sinn Fein is committed to the political institutions, but they must operate differently from what went before, with a new kind of politics, which is progressive, respectful, and has integrity," she said.

"Public confidence has to be earned and trust rebuilt if the institutions are going to have any credibility. We now have a new five-party Executive which must be an inclusive partnership coalition government."

She said that scandals like RHI must never be allowed to happen again, starting with the need for competent ministers and a Civil Service with the proper checks and balances.

She added that special advisers must be accountable, after her own party had faced accusations of giving too much power to unelected aides.

"We need open government where decisions are properly scrutinised daily and with no hiding place for any risk of malpractice or cronyism. This is what Sinn Fein is committed to."

Speaking to the BBC afterwards, her colleague John O'Dowd MLA maintained the DUP should shoulder the blame over RHI.

He also defended criticisms against the former Sinn Fein Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir, which included claims he consulted a senior republican over the RHI scheme.

He said any criticisms made against him came long after the DUP had already started RHI.

"They do not relate to the RHI scheme itself," Mr O'Dowd said.

"The RHI scheme was designed, delivered and should have been scrutinised under a DUP minister. So, the RHI scandal was born and reared in a DUP ministry and it is the responsibility of the DUP to ensure that the failings, sometimes obvious failings, shouldn't have happened."

He called Sir Patrick's report "historically accurate" of the RHI saga, and said he was optimistic it would increase stability in Northern Ireland.

"There's certainly lessons in the report for governance, for civil servants.

"But this scandal came about because of the failings of one party," he said.

"I hope lessons have been learned there. The recommendations that relate to how we improve governance in this society has to be learned by all Executive parties and, indeed, Assembly members in the chamber and also our scrutiny committees."

Current Finance Minister, Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy, said new measures would include a revised ministerial code of conduct, further reform of the Civil Service and an independent panel to identify misconduct by civil servants.

He said: "We need effective governance and to manage public money in the public interest. This must never happen again."

Belfast Telegraph