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Socialist Democracy Statement

The Stormont RHI scandal and the calls for resignation

Why stop with Arlene?

16 December 2016

At a cost to the public purse of almost  £500 million there is no doubting the level of corruption and maladministration surrounding the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme. The scheme was devolved to Stormont even though the British already had a functioning system. The criteria were altered so that a scheme meant to save energy became one where the more fuel you burnt the greater the subsidies and where costs could expand without limit.

Warnings were ignored. The closure of the scheme was delayed while hundreds of groups in the know signed up. The eventual bill, sitting at the door of an administration committed to harsh austerity, dwarfs all the other scams and cons run by the local kleptocracy.

Nor is there the slightest doubt that Arlene Foster's fingerprints are all over it, first as Enterprise Minister and then as First Minister.

In a normal  democracy Arlene would be toast, especially with one of her ministers, Jonathan Bell, breaking ranks and claiming that his attempts to close the scheme were blocked and with the other party in the administration, Sinn Fein, gently muttering that she might consider temporarily standing aside.
The DUP lost no time in trashing Bell or in telling Sinn Fein where to stuff their suggestion.  Stormont is not a normal democracy. It is a sectarian alliance. Arlene's role is not to oversee the proper use of funds but to supervise the share-out of the spoils of sectarian division. Other than its size, RHI is no different from many other Stormont scams - in terms of political corruption the use of public funds to subsidise an alliance between the DUP and UDA is a far stronger indication of the true nature of the administration.

Why stop at calls for Arlene's resignation? Is there a single one of the mini Trumps in the DUP who would behave differently? Why stop at the DUP? Is there anyone unaware of Sinn Fein's role in guarding the DUP's back?

And it is Sinn Fein, not the DUP, who are at risk. The DUP stand secure in their defence of sectarian privilege and many of them would be happy to bring the forced marriage with Sinn Fein to an end. Adams and his supporters promised a gradual movement towards a democratic society, rather than the sectarian reality which is becoming more deeply entrenched. 

The anger of their supporters at their silence in the face of yet another dirty deal has forced them to step back from Arlene. If the DUP do not offer them a face saving device in the form of an enquiry the executive may fall. 

The experiment has failed. Stormont must go. Its time to call for its dissolution and to confront those in Sinn Fein and the trade union leadership who claim that the sectarian lash-up is gradually leading us to a better tomorrow and that the working class should foot the bill.

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