Martin McGuinness has resigned as deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland in protest to Arlene Foster’s handling of the rapidly developing scandal surrounding the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
Following revelations that the country’s RHI scheme had failed to set cost controls leading to a cost to the public purse of £490 million, pressure has mounted on Foster to stand aside while an investigation into the scheme she helped set up is carried out.
The Sinn Fein MLA, who has served in the role since 2007, released a letter announcing his decision earlier today, claiming the DUP’s handling of the issue was “out of step” with the “rightly outraged” public mood in Northern Ireland.
He added that Foster’s continued service as First Minister would result in “significant conflict of interested issues”, adding: “The Minister responsible for the RHI scheme should have no Executive role in overseeing how this will be rectified,” McGuinness stated.
By refusing to stand aside, he claimed Foster’s position “is not credible or tenable” and could therefore not be supported by his continued presence as deputy First Minister, effective from 5pm today.
Sinn Fein will not nominate a replacement in an effort to prompt an election to allow the electorate to “make their own judgement” at the ballot box.
Foster set up the RHI scheme in 2012 when she was enterprise minister to encourage the take-up of renewable heat sources. However, subsidies were given out that totalled more than applicant would pay for fuel, resulting in a “cash for ash” scheme which quickly became oversubscribed resulting in spiralling costs.
Arlene Foster has continually rejected calls for her to step down, and measures are expected to be presented to the Northern Ireland Executive this week that will be intended to claw back some of the money already committed to the scheme.
Foster said in an interview before Christmas that she intended for more than half of the cash to be retained.