First Minister should step aside – Long

Alliance Leader Naomi Long has said First Minister Arlene Foster should step aside while an independent inquiry establishes the facts around the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

Naomi Long said: “The interviews given by the First Minister and Jonathan Bell raise more questions than they answer. They are internally inconsistent, as well as conflicting with each other.

“Given the limitations which we have seen previously with Public Accounts Committee inquiries and the significant sums of public money involved, we believe that an independent judge led inquiry may now be the only means of establishing the objective facts in a manner which is capable of restoring public confidence in the devolved institutions.

“We need to know why the scheme was kept open after the financial implications were known and who benefited, including those accepted into the scheme and contractors supplying equipment or fuel.

“At the very least, the First Minister should step aside for the duration of that investigation and all paperwork and correspondence relating to RHI should be released publicly as we have previously stated.

“In relation to the no confidence motion in the First Minister, Alliance will support it as, until this debacle is resolved and clear lines of responsibility established, it is impossible for her to exercise her responsibilities with any moral authority. However, we would call on Arlene Foster to reflect on the serious damage being inflicted on the devolved institutions by the current crisis and stand aside voluntarily until it is resolved without the need for such action.”

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