“The whole issue has, unfortunately, become party political…”

In the Belfast Telegraph, Conservative MP, Laurence Robertson, who chairs the House of Commons Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs, asks some pertinent questions about the ‘crisis’ over the RHI scheme.

What would [Arlene Foster’s] resignation achieve? Who would take over? Would this stabilise the workings of the Assembly and the Executive, or throw it into turmoil?

If some parties want an inquiry held into the RHI, then fine. But by way of an analogy, if an inquiry were held into, say, the reason for UK immigration levels over the last six years, would Theresa May (as then Home Secretary) have to step down as Prime Minister while it took place? Of course not.

The whole issue has, unfortunately, become party political, with some seemingly threatening to force Assembly elections.

But if elections were held, would the state of the parties be significantly different, or would they be approximate to how they are now? If the latter, what would have been achieved by holding those elections, apart from extra expense to the electorate?

I have been alarmed by the force of some of the comments made and the risks some people commenting appear willing to take.

I have even been asked if this issue could lead to the imposition of direct rule.

I, as a Conservative, English MP do not want to see a return to direct rule, and would suggest that those turning up the volume on this issue need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Yes, the RHI ended up a mess. Yes, it should be sorted out.  But I would question whether this is an issue which should lead to new elections being held, or an issue which should threaten to bring down the institutions.

I believe there are bigger issues at stake, and, while ensuring that the RHI is put right, we should be concentrating on those important issues.

Indeed.

And, while Mick highlighted the joint Northern Ireland Executive Office statement on 13 September, here’s a reminder of the situation just 7 short months ago in the newly elected NI Assembly – “DUP/SF solidarity facing a formal opposition marks a new Assembly era“.

As Brian noted in that post

Most notable of all was DUP-Sinn Fein solidarity against Ulster Unionist/SDLP opposition

But he also quoted BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport…

So, will a cohesive government run rings around a divided opposition? Maybe, but all governments, power sharing or not, are vulnerable to the passage of events.

Seven months.

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