Claire Sugden said she favoured an independent probe into an initiative that has left Stormont with a £490 million bill but said she did not support calls for Ms Foster to step down while that investigation takes place.
Ms Sugden also ruled out quitting her pivotal job – a move that would likely force the collapse of the Democratic Unionist/Sinn Féin led coalition.
Moreover, she pointed out that calls for Mrs Foster to step aside from her post were down a lot of political posturing:
Regrettably the two main parties are reverting to party politics and they are feathering their own nests in that respect – they are keeping their own constituents right.”
Ms Sugden said she did not believe calls for Ms Foster to stand aside were fair. “Anyone forcing her to step aside is actually punishing her for something that hasn’t been substantiated,” she said. [Emphasis added]
A public inquiry is an established way of getting to the heart of the matter. So too, for a lot less money, would an inquiry through the PAC (to call officials to account) and Economy (to haul the Minister in) committees.
A public inquiry is a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but it would come up with answers and force evidence from the right people. It would also cost more than a few bob. It wouldn’t take years as some have suggested since the issues at stake are neither complex or the evidence hard to find.
It would also mean no possibility of the FM stepping down or aside since it would take months before any preliminary inquiry could report and as Newton Emerson explains the St Andrew’s Agreement only allows such an arrangement to last up to six weeks at a time:
This is presumably why Sinn Fein have now concocted yet another gerry-built contraption that would need legislative substance to make it work. We await the next wheeze with baited breath (and the next chief spokesman – it’s Michelle O’Neill again today – on the roster).