Foster “While at this moment in time it may seem all hope is lost I still believe we can work to achieve better and brighter days ahead”

The DUP Leader, Arlene Foster spoke today about launching an inquiry into the RHI scheme

I indicated last evening that I am disappointed that Martin McGuinness resigned as Deputy First Minister.  Today the consequences of what has happened is that it is much more difficult to deal with the RHI problems which I want to see resolved in a way that restores public confidence.

I very much regret that as politicians we have been unable to find a way through the issues and the impact of that failure is to penalise the people of Northern Ireland who have now no effective functioning Executive at a time of major challenges.

For our part we have sought to offer up solutions to the problems over the last number of weeks.  We had a number of meetings with Sinn Fein which, had the political will existed on their part, could have allowed us all to avoid the situation we now find ourselves in.  Indeed the reason the Assembly was recalled on 19th December was based on the fact we had reached agreement at the Executive on 14th December with Sinn Fein to do so, and had a clear plan in place to deal with the need to hold a full investigation and to bring costs under control.

There was never any political difference of opinion on the need to get to the bottom of what happened and to ensure the overspend was eliminated.

The major sticking point between us over the last few weeks has been the fact that Sinn Fein would not agree to the establishment of an enquiry until I agreed to step aside as First Minister.

For me I felt to have done so would have led to the conclusion that I was guilty of something improper which is not the case.

I am no longer the First Minister so therefore there is no reason, under Sinn reins reasoning, why an investigation cannot now be established. 

If, however, Sinn Fein are still unwilling to allow an investigation to be established I intend to ask for an investigation, on the basis of the terms of reference discussed as part of our discussions with Sinn Fein, to be set up under the Inquiries Act 2005.  

I am determined that the public will get the facts in an independent and impartial way free from party political demands and bias.

I want to see an investigation commenced quickly so that it will be independently demonstrated that I did nothing wrong and that my integrity is vindicated.

This is vitally important from a political perspective but also fundamental for me on a personal basis. I have been quite disgracefully maligned in the most viscous manner and therefore it is of the utmost importance that the truth comes out.

Detailed work on cost controls is ongoing and material will be sent to the Department of Finance.  We want any draft legislation to bring spending into line and the Minister for the Economy will consult with other parties on this. Simon will, later this week, have more to say on both transparency and cost controls. 

For my part I am determined to do all I can to help put right what went wrong, to find out through an investigation why things went wrong and to seek to restore the credibility of Stormont in the eyes of the public.

The DUP has not given up or walked away. We want truth, transparency and cost control even though others would rather play high stakes politics with Northern Ireland’s stability.

However even if we were to address all of the problems that flowed from the RHI it is clear that Sinn Fein have additional concerns which they are attempting to introduce into discussions on their own terms.   Attempting to frame negotiations in a way that is acceptable to one party only cannot be the basis for successful discussions.

A DUP delegation met with the Secretary of State yesterday afternoon and I indicated to him our willingness to take part in any discussions to see whether a way forward can be found.  I remain open to further discussion with Sinn Fein, or any of the other parties in the Assembly over the next few days.  

If necessary we will take our case to the electorate and use it as a platform for further discussions.  I have never taken the verdict of the electorate of Northern Ireland for granted and while an election is not of our making we trust the judgement of the people.

Last May people gave us a mandate and despite all of the challenges I remain dedicated to representing all the people of Northern Ireland.  I want to do what is in the bests interests of Northern Ireland and I want us to be able to build a better future.

Despite the undoubted setbacks over these last few weeks we have achieved much for Northern Ireland over the years.  While at this moment in time it may seem all hope is lost I still believe we can work to achieve better and brighter days ahead.”

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  • Gingray

    First signs of a fix- Foster is no longer First Minister, so the investigation can begin, with a result that the assembly returns without an election?

  • J D

    “…to achieve better and brighter days ahead”

    I was just thinking there’s a grand stretch to the evenings!

  • Jag

    No, no, this is about calling SF’s bluff, because now, everyone wants a public inquiry. Except SF. So the election which SHOULD focus on the DUP’s ineptitude (or worse) in the RHI scandal will now focus on SF’s stubbornness and arrogance on refusing a public inquiry and insisting on their own off-the-cuff probe.

  • mac tire

    “While at this moment in time it may seem all hope is lost I still believe we can work to achieve better and brighter days ahead.”

    Good. You know what you have to do and there is still time.

    Regards,

    The Rogues and Renegades.

  • anon

    “For me I felt to have done so would have led to the conclusion that I was guilty of something improper which is not the case.”

    For a lawyer, Arlene seems to have a surprising amount of difficulty understanding the phrase “without prejudice”.

  • anon

    I don’t see that it’s calling SF’s bluff at all. What makes you think SF will object to a public inquiry, now that Arlene is out of office? The only difficulty (for Arlene) is that a public enquiry will take an interminable length of time to complete, during which the DUP will have to appoint an alternative FM or SF won’t go back into the Executive. Nothing to stop AF remaining as DUP leader (or, if she prefers, The Leader of Unionism) during this period.

    More likely, the DUP have realised that the terms of reference discussed with SF are the most favourable they are going to get, and are looking to get the inevitable kick-started in the least painful way possible and as quickly as possible.

  • hotdogx

    The DUP will never accept the error of their ways. The want one party rule. Not an inch, anything they don’t like its a POC straight away. SF made it work as best the could almost to death. Power-sharing wasnt working and the drop in the nationalist vote proves it. Unionists have to stop swallowing this nonsense and vote for a real party. What worries me is that unionists live in such a dream world they will blindly vote DUP again which will be the end of power sharing. All she had to do is step aside temporarily. Even Newton Emmerson over on the Irish times has no time for them.
    Vote UUP if you must even better vote alliance or other but teach the DUP a lesson.

  • Ernekid

    Arlene has shot her reputation in the foot. Then reloaded and shot the other foot. Now she’s pointed the gun at her reputations head and is pulling the trigger.

    There’s no way she can recover from this

  • Skibo

    Of course we could Arlene. You could start by showing a bit of humility and accept you are not infallible. Stop believing the hype that you are the great saviour of Unionism and accept that Nationalism and Republicanism are of equal status to the Unionist people you represent.
    Whether there is time now or not is hard to tell. republicanism has swallowed too many bitter promises to have them regurgitated and used again at a later date.
    Be careful though as too much humility will make you look weak and a Lundy!

  • Skibo

    I see one issue with a public inquiry and that is investigative reporting on the scandal will have to stop or it could be seen as prejudicial.
    If the UUP are going to be able to put a glove on the DUP, the stories need to keep coming on the RHI and how it was set up. Nolan, this morning gave the impression that there is plenty more to come. A drip, drip of information will deepen the effect on the DUP vote.

  • Granni Trixie

    As I’ve said previously I would not trust an enquiry in which she set the terms of reference. She seems to have run it past SF but that is insufficient scrutiny given for some reason they do not want a public enquiry with the powers of 2005 Act. I would want the terms of reference and who is to be appointed to be determined by those without a vested interest in the outcome, she is still trying to assert that she has ni case to answer.

  • Granni Trixie

    But why does it matter if DUP finds the terms ok? It’s like asking someone being investigated for an alleged crime to approve whoever investigated them or approve the laws under which they are questioned.

  • Granni Trixie

    A really good point I had not considered.

  • hgreen

    I wonder has she ever had a normal job where when impropriety is suspected employees are suspended or put on gardening leave until the investigation is concluded?

  • Pigeon Toes

    TOR in most of these independent investigations aren’t necessarily about getting to the truth of the matter. Even the NIAO send their material back to Departments for ahem “clearance” http://www.computerweekly.com/blog/Public-Sector-IT/National-Audit-Office-the-murky-clearance-process

  • anon

    You’ve answered your own question there. If you were being investigated, wouldn’t you see an advantage is setting the terms of reference?

  • Granni Trixie

    I’ve obviously expressed myself badly – I agree with you – it is inappropriate as she is an interested party.

  • Zig70

    The Blofield style message to the people by the fireplace (I guess the cat couldn’t take the heat) was another omg moment. Complete internet lol overload.

  • JOHN TURLEY

    My God, this womans arrogance and contempt for McGuinness has no limit,
    she has no respect for one word he delivered yesterday, she still thinks she
    can play him for a fool.Good to see a young lady like Miss O Neill explain
    the position in a few words.

  • Shane Frank

    She is some piece of work. Outstanding arrogance and conceit. They will hang her out to dry when they get a chance. She is finished and rightly so….

  • AntrimGael

    Her own call for an investigation under The Inquiries Act is a smokescreen to cover her while an election takes place. It’s nonsense. Sinn Fein know the Nationalist community have no desire to see Stormont come back under the same Unionist supremacy and rabid, bigoted sectarianism. Foster has not only destroyed the political institutions but she has also done a lot of damage to cross community relations too.
    There will be another 2 elections, no agreement and 10 years of direct rule. The right wing, Little Englander, fundamental Tory/DUP Axis has once again conspired to wreck agreement in Ireland. “Those who do learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them”. In a political vacuum it doesn’t take a genius to realise that others will attempt to take advantage. This IS Ireland after all.

  • Granni Trixie

    I would like to think voters will punish her as they did Mr Robinson when they assessed he was taking their support for granted.

  • Shane Frank

    DUP will play the victim card and the hardcore will lap it up. Hopefully Sinn Fein will harden up now permanently and realise that the kid gloves don’t work when dealing with these bigots and the British Govt. Credit to them for trying tho….

  • Pigeon Toes

    Let’s just remind ourselves of when that remark was made…”Speaking on the BBC’s The View programme, Mrs Foster said she has stayed on the executive in order to act as a “gatekeeper”.
    “I have been placed there as a gatekeeper to make sure that Sinn Féin and the SDLP ministers don’t take actions that will damage Northern Ireland and principally, let’s be honest, that damage the unionist community.”
    She added: “If anybody knows me and indeed knows the Democratic Unionist Party they know that I’m not going to put at risk to the people of Northern Ireland the possibility that rogue Sinn Féin or renegade SDLP ministers are going to take decisions that will harm the community in Northern Ireland”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34216421

  • Pigeon Toes

    Apparently according to Robinson at the time “Arlene remaining in post allows us to ensure that no irrational financial decisions are taken by other parties in what might appear to be the last number of days of this assembly,” he added.” Wonder what he meant by “irrational”?

  • Granni Trixie

    Isn’t it odd that sf is now the one party which does not agree to a oublic enquiry under the 2005 Act? Why?

  • Shane Frank

    Ah yes. Those incompetent fenians would run amok…

  • Ian Rate

    “Attempting to frame negotiations in a way that is acceptable to one party only cannot be the basis for successful discussions.”

    Or should she have said

    “Attempting to run the Assembley in a way that is acceptable to one party only cannot be the basis for successful democracy”

    Fixed that for you Arlene.

  • Pigeon Toes

    The clip is enlightening and indeed I now wonder who that “community” being referred to is by Foster?

  • file

    Again no attempt to address never mind deny the accusation of bigotry in McGuinness’s resignation letter.

  • file

    Jag, Foster’s statement makes no mention of a public enquiry: she is talking about an investigation carried out by civil servants.

  • file

    well, some of the criticism of the Inquiries Act here on wiki might give you a few possible ‘whys’. Especially inquiry where Arlene sets the terms of reference, and Arlene has the power to suspend the inquiry.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inquiries_Act_2005

  • lizmcneill

    Irrational financial decisions, like subsidising £1 of fuel with £1.60 of public money….?

  • Pigeon Toes

    Funny you should mention it ….At the time I thought it was in case the cheeky beggars looked too closely at NAMA … Now?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Don’t rely on that Skibo – The BBC & the rest of investigative journalism will now be told to “pull its horns in” ! by “Big Brother” London does not want this “Shitty Headache” “Directly” for another 20 years !

  • Granni Trixie

    Thank you File that link is useful. I am not sufficiently knowledgeable of law to evaluate the criticism made by Amnesty amd quoted in Wikipedia. I do not accept what it says at face value either.

    What you have alterted me to though is that my instinct re an Enquiry is based on the need to find a model not contaminated by interested parties. A transparent process held in public, with powers to compel witnesses and documents, if you will set up with an eye on cost and time.