“It might not take much to expose this as a vulnerable sort of robustness.”

Missed this yesterday, which I’ll put down to a bad dose of man flu. It’s Newton Emerson in the Irish Times:

In financial and administrative terms, RHI is hardly an unprecedented failure. Its loss is currently estimated at £490 million (€577m), spread over 20 years.

Comparable sums have been squandered on other Stormont schemes and projects since devolution, with official reports revealing similar levels of incompetence.

The annual loss from RHI, at just under £25 million (€29m), is mundane by Stormont standards. A more expensive scandal involving paramilitary funding was rumbling away before the heating story broke.

 In 2014, the Northern Ireland Audit Office revealed that a new hospital in Fermanagh will rack up £488 million (€574m) in interest payments over 30 years due to the ludicrous way it was financed.
Despite the almost identical sums to RHI and the far more emotive topic of direct waste to the National Health Service, this was met with little more than a shrug.

Yet that makes the outrage at this scandal all the more striking.

…if RHI is not the final straw, it is at least a straw in a gathering wind. How long can this continue, especially in the absence of any credible replacement government or form of government?

The assumption up to now has been “indefinitely”. Cost and incompetence have not been seen as existential factors for Northern Ireland. With a third of the region’s income received as subsidy, two Darien adventures a year are built into the system.

It might not take much to expose this as a vulnerable sort of robustness.