How #RHI disappeared down a rabbit hole and the real pretexts for our Election to Nowhere…

So on Wednesday night, I gave this round-up presentation on the Northern Ireland Assembly election to the Wales Governance Centre at the University of Cardiff. It has a fairly bleak title, for which I begin by laying out the pretext.

It also contains a slide in which I look in detail at the RHI story and how strangely most of the key matters relating to it were resolved well before the election took place (including the source of the leak: hint: it wasn’t the DUP SpAds).

The Golau Podcast captured most of the sound pretty well, even though I contrived to pull the lapel mic out several times:

They’ve also got the shorter version via an interview I did with Professor Roger Scully, acting director of the Centre:

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  • ted hagan

    Stormont politicians from many parties had started to get nervy, jittery, and a bit butterfingery after being thrown the ‘gift’ of the RHI scandal, courtesy of a valiant media. Where was the scrutiny from the DUP’s rivals was a question that was never adequately answered. I think in the end they were all glad to see it booted into touch for while and to get back to some real tribal squabbling..

  • mickfealty

    The Jonny Bell interview/Martin’s illness was the turning point in those three key days. The Opposition had months to slow cook this, but Nesbitt instead went for regicide. To be reasonable, no one thought SF would jump sides so suddenly or completely.

  • Gopher

    Its academic now as the assembly is gone. The only way out is for an new election and parties that are minded to sign up to an unconditional return apart from wieghted majority and fight the election under that unified front. A single issue election basically.

  • Typo in the presentation, “shrinking ship” should be “sinking ship”.

  • mickfealty

    Do you know what Brian, you’re right. But I genuinely think it’s a better description. ?

  • mickfealty

    Well, maybe. Who is going to agree that, and how?

  • the rich get richer

    Ashes to Ashes…Dust to Dust………………

  • Gopher

    Quite simple really those parties that claim to believe in the assembly have to make the election a referendum on the assembly. If the DUP and SF want to stand against that so be it but we need to bring decision on it. The parties that stand for the assembly should make it clear they are standing on one single issue the assembly itself. If the parties cannot make a united stand to attempt to save the assembly then its not worth saving. If they make a united stand and the electorate reject an unconditional return with wieghted majority and vote for parties that stand apart from that then we know the project has failed. Enough is enough this needs to be brought to a head now.

  • What you said seems more accurate than what you wrote. I would dispute that it’s an election to nowhere though. It’s a step forward, as you say yourself the GFA delivered peace not a functioning government. Now that the two communities are approaching parity in electorate size the next phase begins.

  • aquifer

    “those parties that claim to believe in the assembly”
    Alliance SDLP Greens PBP … and DUP Lite?
    Alliance may need to save Unionism from its own sorry self.
    The extremes have been placated for too long by the Brits and surprise surprise we have sectarian stalemate. Time to move on.
    Over to you Naomi. Call for an election on a shared manifesto with the willing beside you. Without the UUP. Their Orange connections makes them a threat to state security.

  • mickfealty

    Still think shrink fits better. You have to distinguish between unionism, which is a defensive, later 19C political cause and the union.

    Former unionists are defecting to indifference on the matter union or unification. That’s an opportunity for both.

  • Oggins

    Brian I always thought the ‘battle’ would be whoever wins the middle ground

  • Gopher

    Im not sure about saving anything, I feel very strongly with everyone claiming their mandate reflects the want of the people to get on with government or not ,this needs to be tested. Do the people want the assembly to work or not? We need that clear option and to vote on it. The only way is for the parties that want this is to put aside their differences for one election and stand together.

    I’m not sure one can exclude the UUP whom impaled themselves on the vote Colum get Mike ticket last time around but it would be clear to me as it should everyone else the parades commision is part of the unconditional return to the assembly as it is the defacto body. So nope I dont exclude the UUP or even SF and DUP if they sign up to an unconditional return with wieghted majority.

  • Gavin Smithson

    Is any other disfucnctional state the army would take over, throw corrupt and incompentant politicians into prison and run the country properly and with discipline.

    Can we all not just accept that NI it’s current form doesn’t work and that the only answer is repartition and financial inducements to persuade people to move to one jurisdiction of another?

    As Tsipi Livni of Israel said on HARDtalk, a viable Israeli state where Jews are guaranteed a majority is more important than territory.

    Same for Ulster Protestants and Catholic Unionist fellow travellers.

    Smaller states like Malta and Iceland work v well. We could too. A new, territorially smaller but socially coherent and constitutionally settled and unthreatened, the New NI would be a success story.

  • aquifer

    The DUP have benefited politically from the operations of paramilitaries and financially they operate in the shadows. Their sectarian arrogance is destabilising for the state.

    When the UUP competes with such a party it destabilises the state, the Good Friday settlement, and the Union itself.

    And they will, so Alliance must define a distance from them.

    And stop taking plum piggy in the middle jobs.

    The real job is to hold the balance of power between the blocks.

  • 1729torus
  • The Merovingian

    Surely the whole point of partition back in 1921 was to do just that? And we know how well that went.

    Assuming hypothetically that there was a repartition along the lines you suggest, it’s unlikely that all nationalists in the ‘new’ NI could be persuaded to move their home, and you would still end up with a hostile nationalist minority in the new state with all the potential for destabilisation that would lead to.

  • The Merovingian

    I don’t see nationalists ever agreeing to a weighted majority voting mechanism. Memories of the old Stormont regime are too bitter, so that even the (theoretical) possibility that nationalists could be out-voted is not something that SF or the SDLP would ever accept.

  • Gavin Smithson

    The state was too big. Having 1:3 population against the state from day 1 was stupid. It can be fixed though. Just takes imagination and not be enslavened to recieved ‘wisdom’

    It’s not that long ago that we who wanted to leave the EU were told it’s impossible and that we were loons etc

    Perhaps we are loons but we got what we wanted

  • Obelisk

    Gavin you have to accept, Nationalists aren’t interested in repartition. I am sure the idea will gain currency within Unionism in coming years as the demographic reality starts to hit home.

    Maybe we’ve put too much emphasis over the years on JUST the link with the Union, as if that was all that mattered to Unionism. As if they would be willing to sacrifice everything else as long as they could maintain the constitutional link.

    Maybe we have discounted too much the importance of a certain idea of Northern Ireland, a British dominated homeland for Ulster Protestants on the island of Ireland. That idea is certainly in it’s death throes. Power sharing makes it clear that the place isn’t dominated by one group, and the maps linked by 1729torus show the future will be anything but but constitutionally secure.

    Either way, Nationalism wins. There are degrees of victory however. Irish reunification is the best outcome. BUT transforming Northern Ireland into a pluralist state with a heavy green tinge is a close second because it makes a mockery of the great effort, the great injustice Carson and Craig visited on this island.

    All that agony, all that effort and we end up with two Irish states on the island of Ireland.

    You reach for a past we will never allow to become real again with your hope of repartition.

  • Gavin Smithson

    I don’t have to accept anything you say as you put it in your first paragraph

    But you are right in your later passages about the idea of an Ulster PUL Homeland. I have seen that map of demographics. All that map does is reinforce my belief in repartition so that a PUL Homeland can be created in N Down, greater Belfast, S&E Antrim and N Armagh with enclaves in Coleraine and Cityside of L’Derry

    I don’t care if we all have to end up in a giant bunk bed in Rathlin, we will never accept living in an Irish republic

  • grumpy oul man

    Tell me where in the past has a army taken over a state and thing ended well.
    But I do love your consitant contempt for democracy’.

  • Obelisk

    Well you’re going to have a huge problem creating your PUL homeland without Belfast. It’s a mixed city heading towards a Nationalist majority and there is no way we will ever abandon it

    By the way…’we will never accept living in an Irish republic’…what happens if Nationalism wins a border poll?

    Does this mean Unionists wont accept the principle of consent if the vote goes against them?

    Then why should Nationalists observe it now? Dangerous thinking there.

  • the rich get richer

    Is there any statisticians out there that could do a projection of what the Catholic Population is likely to be in 10 years and say 20 years……

  • Nevin

    “You have to distinguish between unionism, which is a defensive, later 19C political cause and the union.”

    This caricature reads like something out of John Hume’s “Personal Views”. In my lifetime, I’ve observed unionist and nationalist aggression and defensiveness; I’ve also shown respect for the two opposing constitutional aspirations. Acts of collaboration across the communal divide require either a common enemy or a little bit of manipulation but, sadly, the mainstream media appears to be more interested in highlighting the acts of confrontation that those of collaboration.

    “That’s an opportunity for both.”

    Anyone who believes that the DUP and SF are sincere in any of their ‘reaching out’ or ‘reconciliation’ soundbites is a complete fool. Unfortunately, naive idiots do have the right to vote!

  • grumpy oul man

    I’d get started on that bunk bed and Rathlin will be part on a UI you might consider somewhere else.
    Rockwall could work.

  • The Irishman

    Excellent point Obelisk.

  • Obelisk

    In ten years I reckon something like 50%-45% Catholic-Protestant in the relevant jurisdiction.

    In twenty years I reckon 85%-12% Catholic-Protestant in the relevant jurisdiction.

    Very, very rough back of the envelope numbers there mind you.

  • Obelisk

    Except this time we won’t allow you to have your own way. You won’t get to recreate a partitioned statelet to preserve your majority a second time. We won’t permit you to allow this to drag well into a second century and condemn future generations to ‘them’ and ‘us’.

    When Northern Ireland is done, it is done. No joint authority proposals at the last second, no repartitions, no do-overs. Just a solemn flag lowering ceremony, a quick handshake from the British (or English) prime minister of the day with the Taoiseach and a flight out of Belfast for any remaining British (or English) officials who managed the handover.

  • the rich get richer

    Surely your 20 year projection cannot be right . The 20 year one would surely involve a big conversion to catholicism………

  • Obelisk

    Within the relevant jurisdictions, I think my numbers make sense.

  • mickfealty

    Steady on lad. Are you planning to use sniffer dogs to figure out who the citizens are and aren’t? Is it too late to ask people not to comment unless they’ve read/listen to the above?

  • Mark Petticrew

    If you wish to keep hold of Belfast in this re-partitioned northern state, you’ll probably have to partition Belfast itself; something of which this image – based upon the city’s identity returns in the 2011 Census – suggests would be a rather difficult task.

  • El Daddy

    Not to forget the session to end all sessions.

  • Nevin

    “look in detail at the RHI story”

    I’ve had a look at the flow-chart, noted a couple of minor typos and reflected on the problems of constructing an accurate narrative based on superficial research by a range of organisations.

    “SF/DUP run on a “Fresh Start” platform May 2017″ .. 2016
    “Spotlight documentary highlights CAG report – 7th December” .. 6th December

    I point a finger of blame for the collapse of the Executive at the incendiary nature of the Spotlight programme. There was no sign of panic in the year leading up to that programme but the infra-red camera gimickry and absence of governance context was most unlikely to produce mature reflection.

    The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General looked at the DETI accounts and had this to say about RHI promotion:

    “Of this total expenditure around £35 million was spent promoting the use of and providing support for the use of renewable heating technologies.”

    Why didn’t OCAG have the wit to look at RHI in a wider context, including promotion by other government departments and associated agencies? Many workshop promotions were jointly facilitated by DETI and DARD related officials:

    Following their highly successful biomass workshops and due to overwhelming demand, Balcas brites is teaming up once again with the College of Agriculture, Food & Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) to offer a second round of workshops designed for farmers interested in finding out how brites wood pellets can help to significantly reduce their annual energy costs and be more environmentally friendly. .. 16 August 2013

    The benefits of the 20-year deal were also noted by manufacturers:

    “Our team installed a 66kw biomass boiler that along with the government’s RHI will ensure that the technology pays for itself in less than 12 months, and will allow Riada to get on with delivering for their customers in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.” .. 31 January 2014

    Should whistleblowers have taken their concerns to OCAG? Past experience would suggest that OCAG is rather too passive.

    Will the RHI inquiry look at the wider context, including the absence of ministers from meetings of their departmental boards and the apparent withholding of key information from independent board members? How could the latter accurately access risk when starved of information as well as an opportunity to advise and challenge ministers? Indeed, does the inquiry panel have sufficient technical expertise to carry out its investigation?

  • Peggy kelly

    Its important to bare in mind that more and more people are opting out of religious self identity. That cohort will continue to grow in numbers which will cause downward pressure on the percentage figure for all religions. Moreover, we have no way of knowing how future migration might effect native community balance.

    However, it we look at the 2011 census results we can extrapolate approximate and likely community breakdown into the short and medium term.

    Today we have a slim Catholic plurality but by 2021 the gap will widen. At that point we will also have parity in the voting age population. By 2031 it is likely that the CNR population will be around 48%, PUL 42%.

  • 1729torus

    A little under 44% in 2021 going to around 38% in the long run I remember.

  • Obelisk

    True but religious self identity is too useful a rule of thumb for cultural background for us to stop using it now.

  • Gopher

    If infact we seeing the end of unionism through demographics why not, it make sense.

  • Gopher

    One has to give political parties and even individuals the option to reform, is that not the lesson the life of Marty teaches us or is it a one way street?

  • ted hagan

    ‘The DUP have benefited politically from the operations of paramilitaries and financially they have operated in the shadows’
    Maybe you should provide evidence of this?
    I mean that would imply that SF have have never benefited frolm the operations of paramilitaries when in fact it was the cornerstone.of their foundation.

  • mickfealty

    Catholic pop only grew by 1% between 2001 and 2011. Neither rose to 17%.

  • mickfealty

    This is one reason talking up the demographics kills off a UI.

    One, your stats don’t take account of those opting out (currently the fastest growing group at 17%).

    Two, you’re emphasising the disempowerment of Protestants in a UI, which is a poor attempt to sell or as a good deal for everyone.

  • aquifer

    Naomi long was put out of the East Belfast seat with the aid of the alphabet soupers. The DUP accepted money for the Brexit campaign from sources outside of Northern Ireland with very odd connections. Nobody is sure about NAMA and NI.

    What about SF? I had excluded the other half of the old double act too.

  • aquifer

    One and preferably more parties should create the conditions when SFDUP MUST reform. The provision of security by the UK state is a massive subsidy for their confrontational and impossibilist politics. The centre parties need to define a centre, a hinge to overthrow the rotten sectarian status quo.

  • GS

    85% Catholic to 12% Protestant excluding Others and no Religion in 20 years!?

    I have played around with figures a few times but I don’t think I ever reached those levels of difference.

  • GS

    Are there any accurate estimates of the % of each group who vote?

  • Granni Trixie

    I’m waitin for the movie.

  • Gopher

    The only practical way to overthrow the DUP and SF who incidently combined got more than 50% of the popular vote is offer a viable alternative which cannot be provided by any of the remaining parties individually. All those paries are doing now is collecting a wage and its an unedifying sight watching them cling to that wage. The assembly needs tested now, the parties and electorate either want it or they dont its black and white. Thats why whatever parties including SF and DUP are welcome to stand on a uncondtional return with weighted majority platform.

  • Gopher

    Is that counting immigration or not counting immigration?

  • Obelisk

    But i feel it is something we cannot avoid talking about either.

    In a United Ireland, should I ever be fortunate to live to see one, Catholics will greatly outnumber Protestants. That is an inevitable consequence of the emergence of that state.

    It is fear of that insuperable majority that helped drive Unionists to the actions they did nearly a hundred years ago. A homeland for themselves where they could be themselves and do as they wished…although for economic stability they had to drag in several hundred thousand unwilling Irishman.

    But was it all for naught? As I mentioned, is the constitutional link the be all and end all for which everything else must be sacrificed? A slim Catholic majority in the north is not going to guarantee unification, but culturally they aren’t going to subscribe to the formerly dominant Protestant ethos either.

    Either way, Protestantism faces disempowerment in whatever context. Either within a UI, or within NI.

    Now I accept my response was glib and without nuance, I apologise for that. And I agree that it is not the best way to present the numbers. But many will regardless, it seems to show Protestants will have no powers and no influence within a UI.

    A better answer would be that it only truly matters in Northern Ireland, where sectarian headcounting is part of the fabric of the state.

    Within an agreed United Ireland, we don’t know how the North would be treated. It could still exist as a devolved entity. The Democratic Ulster Party (to coin a term) could hold the balance of power. The Dublin government could bend over backwards to ensure they don’t feel neglected.

    Protestants being a minority in a UI is inevitable. But the real task is to ensure that something that matters so much in an NI context becomes meaningless in a UI context.

  • Smithborough

    I think the “relevant jurisdiction” he’s taking about in 20 years is a united Ireland.

  • WindsorRocker

    Partition on a 6/26 county basis was the great compromise of the 20th Century. It’s sadly always been portrayed by republicans as a one way unionist street to get what they wanted which ignores the view of unionists like Carson who saw it as a necessary evil accommodation.
    It gave independence to as many Irishmen as possible and kept the Union for as many Irishmen as possible.
    Comments like “gerrymandering a majority” ignore the reality that there was a geographically concentrated swathe of Irishmen who did not want to go the way that most Irishmen did.
    The decision in 1920 to go for 6 counties instead of 9 was part of that compromise.

  • 1729torus

    That is the wrong perspective, people will have an effect whether they vote or not, and might only turn out when it suits them.

  • Obelisk

    Partition was one of the greatest disasters to befall this island, and the nearly one hundred year history of Northern Ireland has been one of discrimination, domination, terrorism, dishonour and lurching from one catastrophe to the next.

    If it were a dog you’d shoot it to put it out of it’s misery.

    As for your rosy view of Unionists leaders of the time, if their goal was self determination for the poor benighted Unionists of the northeast, why are we in a six county north rather than a four county north?

    The four counties of Derry, Antrim, Armagh and Down had clear Protestant majorities and would have produced an overwhelmingly Protestant state.

    Yet Carson and Craig insisted on bringing Catholic majority Fermanagh and Tyrone along for the ride. We all know the answer.

    That ‘concentrated swathe’ were neither numerous enough by themselves nor did they control enough territory to make a viable go of it. They needed to drag in as many Catholics as they felt they could safely control to achieve that viability.

    Now a hundred years later you face the consequences of that choice, as that geographically concentrated swathe again becomes a minority.

  • mickfealty

    I’ve no problem with it being talked about as long as people don’t just magically disappear the obvious conclusion: unity only comes at the point when Protestants and Unionists are included in contemporary Republican conceptions of the Irish Nation.

  • mickfealty

    Including, I would imagine.

  • mickfealty

    Don’t disagree. Maybe they’ll get it right one day.

  • Obelisk

    I take the point and the idealism behind it, but I have to disagree. Unity comes when a border poll on the issue is won, even if it means just one more person voted for reunification over remaining in the UK.

    Unity will be much, much easier to achieve if as many Unionists as possible are convinced of the benefits but practically I think the even in the best case scenario of a border poll win, only a fraction of Unionists are going to be so persuaded.

    So we will almost certainly go into a United Ireland, if voted for, with a majority of the Unionist population against it.

    IF by unity you mean the nation coming together, either before or after a border poll…much trickier.

    If you try and emphasise the commonality of Irishness between a Nationalist and a Unionist, you can be accused of trying to turn a Unionist into something they are not. The old ‘Irish people who just don’t know it’ foolishness. Acknowledging their Britishness means opening yourself up to a charge of attempting to deny their right of self-determination by seeking to take them out of the United Kingdom.

    I believe we should acknowledge their Britishness, it is not for anyone to define another person’s sense of self. And yes, we should acknowledge that we are trying to subvert their right to self-determination, but only because it clashes with our own.

    Who wins when there are two clashing self-determinations? We all agreed that if it came to it, we would have a vote over it.

    And as for including the British of Ireland within the Irish narrative? I am surer vastly cleverer people than I have grappled with that question. Many don’t want to be included. They’d probably see the very suggestion as some sort of insult against their sense of Britishness, the same way some Unionists try to get a rise out of Nationalists by insisting that they are British.

    We have to pursue our quest for unity, taking advantages of any and all fortuitous circumstances that will advance our cause. If we succeed we will cause great hurt within the Unionist community. And as we continue our quest we will cause great fear and unease. We need to be mindful of that, but it can be no restraint on our actions as we fashion our case.

    I think…I think it has to be an offer, rather than an imposition. We have to make space for them and let them know we want them to live and prosper within a reunified Ireland. We have to tackle the bigotry and foolishness within our own ranks and maybe temper the apparent triumphalism we can sometimes be susceptible to, especially now we begin to sense events moving in our favour.

    But as much as we can strive to make room for them, they just can’t be allowed a complete veto. 50%+1 is not ideal, but either side will take it if that is what delivers victory.

  • Obelisk

    Look, like it or not if we want unity to work we have to accommodate Unionists. We can’t just go ‘we’re in charge now lads, you lost the vote. Here’s your shillelagh and you can deposit the lambegs out back in the trash’.

    We aren’t going to make Ireland as orange as we can either, but we can work with Unionists in a United Ireland context…and hopefully before, to find a way we can all live on this island.

    Partition is manifestly NOT that way. It doesn’t work and isn’t going to work, that is why I am so convinced for the need for unity. It is also why I was a bit sharp in my response to Gavin, his solution is just to repeat the huge mistake that created this mess in the first place.

    The end of Northern Ireland is not going to be the end of the Unionist community though. How do we deal with that? It’s a question for all of Ireland, not just northern nationalists.

    They will be in a situation we are familiar with, as a minority in a constitutional situation they didn’t want and didn’t vote for. But there will be one key difference.


    Northern Nationalists are sustained by hope. Regardless of polls or circumstances, we can always look forward to some unspecified point in the future at which Irish reunification will take place. Hope for us is a great thing, the future can be what we make it.

    Unionists in a United Ireland will not have the same hope. Take a glass of water, pour it into a jug of water. Now attempt to fill the glass again, only with the drops of water that were there the first time. It’s an impossibility, once mixed, they are mixed forever. There will be no going back from a United Ireland, no hope of reverting the result of a border poll. Northern Ireland cannot be magically resurrected exactly as it was following the result. So as much as we can empathise partly with what they may feel emotionally, we won’t be able empathise completely. They will be stuck forever essentially.

    All we can do is ensure that they feel as welcome as possible, that every effort (within reason) is made to ensure that a United Ireland works for them as well as for us. And to ensure the mistakes the leaders of Unionism made in the decades after partition are not repeated when the circumstances shift.

    However, their apprehension can be no barrier to the result. We have to be mindful and appreciative of their feelings and concerns, but not totally bound by them to the point they wield a veto.

  • lizmcneill

    Where’s the Lough? Is a chunk of that British red in East Belfast actually water and reclaimed land around the docks and airport?

  • GS

    I would disagree it’s not worth looking at though. Especially when we try and analyse voting voting over next 2/3 election cycles.

    Obviously there will be voting motivation factor as a multiplier but it is worth considering.

  • Peggy kelly

    Actually the percentage growth was 1.5%, a 70k increase in real figures. The Protestant decline was 3%, 20k decline. The big jump was in the category of ‘no religion & not stated’. This jump masks the hard figure realities and suggests strongly a growth in willingness to decouple oneself from sharp religious tagging. However, the ethnic cultural community background dynamic tends not to change so much – The recent election result being a good example.

  • mickfealty

    That’s the key metric Peggy. And it was missed by most of the public commentators who focused on the less significant rise in Northern Irish which only returned to pre Troubles rates. I think #ae17 confirms it’s an active dynamic that needs to be taken seriously.

  • mickfealty

    Idealism is a distraction in this case. Focus instead on practicalities. Here’s my thoughts on the matter in the summer before the 2001 census was announced:

    Much of my reference for that was a monograph by Paul Compton o QUB.!What’s changed since then is the breakup (albeit at the margins) of the Catholic/Protestant blocs. But the logic still stands.

  • mickfealty

    The most relevant thing that was missing from Spotlight was any update on what the govt had done to clean the mess up (which was very well advanced by then). It was an otherwise excellent rendering of the NIAO report and an important public service.

    The fact DARD was running workshops was much less relevant than the fact their colleges had bought boilers, so the SF Minister would have been very well aware of the huge ‘value for money’ the punters were getting, since she was one herself.

    Spotlight in fact was far less a problem than some of the hysteria that followed, not least when the press erroneously tried to pin the blame for the spike on SpAds (apparently achieving what those hyperbolic adverts you quoted above could not, just by telling family members about the scheme).

    It turns out that that was nonsense. It also turns out that Hamilton had spent most of the previous year trying to understand and then fix the problem (no doubt speeded up by the crisis towards the end).

    In effect the reporting of the projected figure as real money lost turned out to be at best flimsy, at worst misleading: a 20-25 million pa loss was turned to 2.2 million pa projected loss (which may yet be tested in court).

    A horse of quite a different colour. .

    Too much store was put on Bell’s melodramatic hearsay evidence, when it was clear by January his own grasp of the problem was not everything it should be for the minister in charge.

    I’m afraid the government was responsible for its own panicked response. Martin’s ill-health and Gerry’s cynical calculation to turn a strategic weakness into an electoral strength did the rest.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Fair Point ! Don’t like the way the commercial city centre has went Green that’s the 12th of July Banjacks ?

  • Nevin

    “Spotlight in fact was far less a problem than some of the hysteria that followed”

    IMO the incendiary Spotlight presentation lit the fuse. Here’s what John Manley had to say on Thursday, December 8:

    ARLENE Foster may be tempted to delay her return from China rather than arrive back in the midst of the media firestorm surrounding the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

    John added:

    There’s normally an assumption in politics that the buck stops with the minister but this isn’t the case at Stormont. In an interview with The Irish News in October she denied responsibility for its shortcomings and shifted responsibility to department officials.

    It obviously hasn’t dawned on John that ministers aren’t even at their departmental board tables, never mind chairing these meetings in line with Treasury recommended best practice.

    “I’m afraid the government was responsible for its own panicked response.”

    I’ve previously said that the governing parties panicked but that panic was triggered by the under-researched and over-dramatised presentation.

  • Mark Petticrew

    This displays the city’s population density from the 2011 Census, which does appear to show large segments of it – such as Belfast lough – are uninhabited.

  • Nevin

    To coin a phrase, the RHI debacle hasn’t gone away, you know:

    Allister queries why not all RHI claimants have been named

    Jim Allister has questioned why the names of 48 non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) claimants have been withheld from publication.

    The TUV leader said he welcomed the Department for the Economy’s decision to release the vast majority of names of those registered with the green energy scheme, but said he was “intrigued” that others had not been identified.