Senior DUP figure Willie Hay has suggested renewed criticism of the party’s role in the Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) fiasco has been timed to coincide with the upcoming Council elections.
The ex-Mayor, speaking in the British House of Lords, said: “I wonder, as I listen to some - not all - of the speeches whether this is all about having a go at the Democratic Unionist Party, or perhaps because there is a local government election on the horizon.
“I say that very clearly. I wonder whether, in trying to resolve a serious situation, this is about politics more than anything else.”
He was responding to criticism from Ulster Unionist grandees over the controversial green energy scheme, which the Comptroller and Auditor General reported in 2016 could cost the public purse up to £490 million over 20 years, due to the fact environmentally-friendly fuel incentives were not capped when it was introduced.
It was set-up under the auspices of current DUP leader Arlene Foster when she was Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister. The ‘cash-for-ash’ furore was one of the reasons the late former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness collapsed the Stormont Executive two years ago and has been the subject of a public inquiry chaired by Patrick Coghlin.
Denis Rogan, an ex-chair of the UUP, said: “Noble Lords can argue about whether RHI was the principal reason Sinn Féin/IRA chose to collapse the Executive when Martin McGuinness resigned as Deputy First Minister. What is beyond dispute, however, is that the scheme has been a catastrophe. There must surely be consequences for those responsible for its many failings when Sir Patrick Coghlin and his excellent team produce their final report.”
The exchanges occurred as Britain’s upper house this week passed the Northern Ireland (Regional Rates and Energy) (No. 2) Bill, which facilitates the capping of RHI subsidies from £13,000 to £2,000 per boiler from April.