Sinn Féin pours cold water over calls for full public inquiry

Posted By: December 31, 2016

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, December 31, 2016

In his new year message, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams last night claimed the DUP had “seriously damaged the credibility of the Assembly, Executive and the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.”

“The DUP’s actions are not acceptable, and this issue is not going away.

“I hope that First Minister Arlene Foster is using this time to reflect on the crisis and that she will facilitate the sort of robust and thorough investigation that is required to deal with this scandal,” Mr. Adams said.

But as Stormont’s opposition parties continue to call for a public inquiry into Mrs. Foster’s oversight of the botched green energy scheme, the DUP’s partners in government have said they do not regard this as the best option. Previously, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald called for a

“public inquiry as a matter of

urgency”, while Newry and Armagh MLA Conor Murphy said a public inquiry should be one of the options considered to find out what went wrong with the RHI.

However, a statement issued by Sinn Féin last night indicated that it no longer regards a public inquiry as necessary.

A party spokesman said its priority was “restoring public confidence in the institutions by holding those responsible for this scandal to account.”

“We believe that this can be best achieved by an independent, time-framed, robust and transparent investigation undertaken by an independent judicial figure from outside this jurisdiction and appointed by the attorney general,” a party statement said.

“It is Sinn Féin’s view that a statutory public inquiry could drag on for years at a significant cost to the tax payers and adding to the cost of this scandal.”

The spokesman said the party was clear in its desire for Mrs. Foster to step aside.

But SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said his party would resist “any attempts to push this into a back office or merely conduct a superficial review” of the scheme.

“The ongoing damage caused by this fiasco to public confidence in the assembly must be brought to an end, and this can only be done by the immediate establishment of a public inquiry with full powers to compel witnesses and evidence,” he said.

“The scale of the damage already inflicted, and the loss of staggering sums of taxpayers money demands that any investigation must be public, thorough and transparent.”