Stormont in crisis as McGuinness gives Foster ultimatum

Posted By: December 19, 2016

“First Minister will face grave consequences if the DUP takes a unilateral approach”

John Manley. Irish News. Monday, December 19, 2016

THE Stormont government was today facing a deepening crisis after Sinn Féin delivered an ultimatum to Arlene Foster over the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.

Martin McGuinness last night urged the DUP leader to stand aside, saying her planned statement to the assembly on the botched green energy scheme did not have his approval.

“If she speaks this will be in a personal capacity and not in her role as First Minister,” he said.

The deputy first minister also ratcheted up the pressure on his government partner by warning of “grave consequences” if the DUP takes a “unilateral approach.”

Ahead of a special sitting of the assembly, Sinn Féin tabled an amendment to an SDLP exclusion motion calling for the establishment of a judge-led inquiry.

It also calls on Mrs. Foster to stand aside for at least four weeks until the preliminary findings are published.

Mr. McGuinness said: “It is my firm belief the only way to establish the truth of what has occurred and to begin to restore public faith in the institutions is for an independent, time-framed and robust investigation to take place.

“The first minister should stand aside to allow this.”

The SDLP has signaled that it will reluctantly support the amendment, which can be blocked by a DUP petition of concern.

The DUP said it supported the need for an independent investigation but did not comment on Mrs. Foster’s position.

She has previously insisted she will not stand down.

There was a flurry of activity relating to the RHI scandal last night with economy minister Simon Hamilton also releasing papers he claims debunk accusations made by Jonathan Bell.

The former enterprise minister was suspended from the party at the weekend for speaking to the media without approval.

In an interview with the BBC last week, Mr. Bell claimed special advisers attempted to “cleanse” government records of references to Mrs. Foster during discussions about a closing of the RHI scheme.