As if things couldn’t get more chaotic in British politics, it seems that the ongoing issue regarding Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Arlene Foster, position has escalated tonight after Sinn Féin’s deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness has stepped down in what he has stated as a protest at the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) handling of a botched renewable energy scheme. A statement was issued by DUP leader Arlene Foster who said she was disappointed that Mr McGuinness had chosen to take this position.
The matter has come to head after there has been repeated calls for Mrs Foster to resign following the recent scandal involving the the Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) project which was designed to encourage businesses to switch from burning fossil fuels to wood biomass heating.
The Renewable Heating Incentive was established to help businesses mitigate the costs of running eco-friendly boilers but it actually ended up paying out more than the cost of the fuel which meant that the more people burned, the more public money they earned. Some applicants were found to heat buildings on an industrial scale just to make money.
Unlike a similar scheme in Britain, no cap was initially put on the payments.
It was revealed that after civil servants urged for the closure of the scheme in June 2015 until a tiered system was introduced in November, there was a spike in applications which has left has left taxpayers in Northern Ireland with an estimated bill of over £500m (€575m).
Martin McGuinness denied that his resignation has been due to his recent health issues and said that this decision has “absolutely nothing” to do with his decision to resign as deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.
It now means that there will be an election in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein has seven days to nominate someone else to replace Mr McGuinness – which is not expected to do – or the secretary of state must call an election.