NORTHERN IRELAND POLITICS: Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness Resigns
Northern Ireland’s political crisis has deepened after Martin McGuinness quit as Deputy First Minister.
Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein veteran resigned in protest at the botched “cash for ash” heating scheme that has cost taxpayers £490million.
His sudden departure will pave the way for a snap Assembly election and leaves the power-sharing agreement facing its greatest test for nearly a decade.
First Minister Arlene Foster has refused to resign over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal that she set up when enterprise minister in 2012.
Taxpayers have lost more than half a billion pounds under the scheme which gave out more in subsidies than they paid for fuel.
Sinn Fein has called for Ms Foster to stand aside during the investigation into the bungled initiative which encouraged firms to burn wood pellets instead of fossil fuels.
The scheme became massively oversubscribed when it emerged business could claim £1.60 for every pound spent.
“The First Minister has refused to stand aside, without prejudice, pending a preliminary report from an investigation. That position is not credible or tenable.”
“Therefore it is with deep regret and reluctance that I am tendering my resignation as deputy First Minister.
“We now need an election to allow the people to make their own judgement,” Mr McGuinness said in his resignation statement.
Mr McGuinness said people should be allowed “to make their own judgement on these issues democratically at the ballot box ”.
“The DUP’s handling of this issue has been completely out of step with the public mood which is rightly outraged at the squandering of public money and the allegations of misconduct and corruption.
“The public are demanding robust action and accountability but the DUP, in particular Arlene Foster, have refused to accept this.”
He added: “We now need an election to allow people to make their own judgment on these issues democratically at the ballot box.”
Mr McGuinness said “The DUP leader has a clear conflict of interest. She was the Minister responsible for the RHI scheme at its inception.
“No cost controls were put in place and warnings were ignored.
“This has led to an enormously damaging pressure on our public finances and a crisis of confidence in the political institutions.
His resignation comes amid rumours he was planning to step down soon anyway because of health problems.
“My health is absolutely nothing to do with this whatsoever,” Mr McGuinness said.
But he refused to say if he would stand in the forthcoming election.
“Today is about my resignation. Whether or not I will be a candidate is something I will speak to you about at a later date,” he told the BBC.
Under the power sharing agreement if either the First Minister or Deputy First minister resigns the Coalition immediately collapses and elections are called.
Theresa May’s official spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister has been kept updated on the resignation of Martin McGuinness.
“The Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire is in contact with people there, encouraging all parties to continue the dialogue.”