Motion doomed to fail

Posted By: January 04, 2017

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, January 4, 2016

The Sinn Féin assembly motion which hopes to deliver an ultimatum to Arlene Foster over Stormont’s botched green energy scheme looks doomed to fail.

Republicans are seeking support from Stormont’s opposition parties for a call for the DUP leader to step aside while an investigation is conducted into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal.

A Sinn Féin amendment to an SDLP motion tabled on December 19 at a special sitting of the assembly was rejected by Stormont speaker Robin Newton as “inadmissible”. When the assembly reconvenes on January 16, Sinn Féin is expected to bring a motion that largely reflects the contents of its previous amendment.

However, Sinn Féin does not want a public inquiry, which the party believes will time-consuming and too costly, and this is likely to prove the sticking point for the smaller parties.

Last night, the Ulster Unionists indicated that they may amend the Sinn Féin motion before supporting it.

“This is a very fluid situation,” a spokesman said.

“We reserve the right to put down an amendment to the Sinn Féin motion, which reads more like the terms of reference for an inquiry than a motion for debate in the chamber.”

An SDLP spokesman said Sinn Féin’s proposals “do not go far enough”.

“The only way to restore faith in the political institutions is to establish an independent public inquiry with the power to compel witnesses and evidence where necessary,” a spokesman said.

“An investigation behind closed doors cannot and will not provide the transparent scrutiny of this fiasco that the public needs.”

Alliance leader Naomi Long has said she would not support the motion in its anticipated form.

“Common sense says the resources used to find the truth are the same in terms of time, cost, scope, and other factors whether an investigation or inquiry, therefore the argument an inquiry would take longer and cost more to do the same job is either nonsense or an admission by Sinn Féin their proposed investigation would be less thorough,” she said.

Mrs. Long said the RHI crisis could only be addressed by “complete openness and transparency”.

“Anything short of this would raise some questions and give the perception of something being hidden,” she said.