DUP “in-out minister” policy cost taxpayers £180 million

Posted By: December 14, 2016

Party identified flaws in botched heating scheme but unable to act

John Manley. Irish News (Belfast). Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The DUP’s “in-out ministers” maneuver last year delayed changes to the disastrous RHI scheme and cost taxpayers an extra £180 million, The Irish News has learned.

Then First Minister Peter Robinson pulled his ministers out of the executive in September last year in protest at the IRA’s killing of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast’s Short Strand.

Only the then finance minister Arlene Foster remained in office, acting as a “gatekeeper” on behalf of the DUP.

But while the maneuver protected the DUP from political attacks, it delayed for 10 weeks changes to the Renewable Heath Incentive (RHI) scheme.

The DUP had finally identified the massive flaws in the scheme and was ready to act but economy minister Jonathan Bell was unable to introduce the changes because of the ‘in-out’ move.

During the 10-week period an additional 880 applications were received at a cost to the Northern Ireland taxpayer of an estimated £180 million over 20 years.

The legislation introducing a cap on tariffs and a limit on the amount that could be claimed was not put in place until November 18 when ministers had returned.

In other developments in the RHI controversy:

* First Minister Arlene Foster has said she will appear before the Public Accounts Committee to answer questions on RHI.

* Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt says he has unearthed a “smoking gun” showing Mrs. Foster was directly responsible for the scheme.

* Stormont is delaying the release of correspondence between Mrs. Foster and regulator Ofgem about RHI.

* The government has admitted it doesn’t know the cost to the taxpayer of the “100 percent” review of boilers, nor how long it will take.

* The DUP continues to refuse to say when former special adviser Stephen Brimstone applied for the RHI scheme and on what business.

* People Before Profit are to hold rallies in Belfast and Derry on Friday calling on Mrs. Foster to resign.