The Cash for Ash scandal is the biggest financial blunder in the history of Northern Ireland. It has the potential to take down the first minister Arlene Foster. It is a mess of the highest order.
The BBC spotlight team did an excellent job with last week’s programme on the affair. It was a forensic dissection of an easily preventable mess. Stephen Nolan then followed up the pressure by devoting the entirety of his show over the past few days to the scandal. And there is more to come over the next few days – will Arlene survive the week?
This affair shows the BBC at its best. They are the only organisation with the resources and power to investigate big stories like this. The local Newspaper industry has been nearly decimated by the internet. UTV is a husk of its former self. Online sites like Slugger have zero budget and zero staff to investigate anything.
Our real opposition parties have been extremely lack lustre over the past few months. At Stormont we rely on Jim Allister, the one-man opposition
Politicians loathe Nolan. They hate that he is the only person in NI that can bring them to account. They complain that he is tabloid, but really they fear and envy his power. They also fear the resources of BBC News and the Spotlight team. They are the only people who can get answers in this place.
Nolan is estimated to earn 300k from BBC NI. That is about the cost of 2 MLAs (factoring in office costs etc). That’s a bargain in my book. He can be a bit hit of miss. His TV show is a head wreck bearpit that has me reaching for the off button. But when he is on form on a story like this he is unstoppable.
So keep it up big lad. May you and the BBC continue to give our politicians and civil servants many sleepless nights. You’re like a big fat Batman watching over us. Not the hero we particularly want but the hero we need.