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Proposals for independent probe into RHI look like the recipe for another DUP-Sinn Fein fudge

letter of the day: public dismay grows

Sinn Fein have now set out their recommendations for an independent investigation with a timeframe of a preliminary report within four weeks and a full report within three months.

Sinn Fein also wants the First Minister to stand aside during the preliminary investigation, but not the period of the full report. Why one and not the other?

Setting up this independent inquiry won't be done with a snap of the fingers. There have been enough examples in Northern Ireland as evidence of this. Emergency legislation is required and will not have an easy passage.

The Attorney General (why not the Lord Chief Justice?) is being asked to appoint a judge (serving or retired?), who would then have to find an independent panel of experts willing to get involved.

The administrative arrangements of setting up such an investigation - finding premises and staffing the investigation; seeking, compiling and distributing documents; identifying and scheduling witnesses and so forth - will take months.

The idea that an interim report could be completed in four weeks is ambitious, if not fanciful. What could any probe conclude in such a short period?

But why is it needed at all, other than to provide a timeframe for a symbolic 'standing-aside' period for Arlene Foster, perhaps timed with an Assembly recess?

In reality, we are looking at a probable three months minimum to set up the investigation process, while Arlene Foster remains in position as First Minister, followed by her standing aside for an arbitrary four weeks and then returning while a final report is compiled. What then?

Even if the DUP agreed to the standing aside period, the whole approach is farcical; further adding to the public's suspicion that a DUP/Sinn Fein fudge is already cooking.

The Public Inquiries Act 2005 already provides the framework to investigate RHI. Use it.


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