Duped again_ how an unassuming heating initiative brought down northern ireland’s government _ politics _ frontlines _ hot press

Nicknamed “cash for ash” or “burn to earn”, the public outcry surrounding a failed heating initiative in Northern Ireland has thrown the country into turmoil and prompted fresh elections, following the collapse of government.

The Renewable Heating Initiative (RHI) was a UK-wide scheme set up in November 2012. Facebook app not working It was designed to encourage businesses to switch from fossil-fuel energy to biomass systems like wood-burning boilers.

Sprinkler warehouse coupon code It was overseen in Northern Ireland by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, headed at the time by Arlene Foster, who subsequently became leader of the DUP and Northern Ireland’s First Minister. Garden snakes eat However, while the rest of the UK operated under a regulated, capped system, the management of the scheme in Northern Ireland involved no limit on usage.

In effect, for every £1 that businesses spent under this scheme, they got back £1.60 in subsidies. Baseball pitcher quotes Analysis of the operation of the scheme showed that as much as £500 million was being lost to the public purse. Landscape supply portland When this shocking news broke, the public backlash shook the country’s institutions to their foundations. Cottage garden design Following a tense political stand-off, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness (pictured above) finally resigned from his role as Deputy First Minister, collapsing the devolved Northern Ireland government.

“Right now there’s a mood of crisis in Stormont,” says McBride. Ancestry dna “There’s also a mood of fatigue among the public. Fantasy football 2016 We’re heading towards an election and I don’t think there’s any real appetite for that. Fastpitch softball pitching lessons There’s also certainly no appetite for more crisis talks.

“In ten years of being a journalist, I’ve never seen the public being so engaged with a story. Landscape ontario congress We have to remember that this is quite a complex story – but people have certainly grasped the extent of the figure behind it. Football season is over So there’s a clear mood of public anger.”

“This has been kicking around in the Stormont undergrowth for over a year,” he says. Garden of eden story “It dates back to a scheme started over four years ago. Football games download free We can now pinpoint certain moments which raise concern. Elite softball From September to November 2015, a ‘spike’ occurred, during which a huge influx of people applied for the RHI scheme. Garden Businesses had heard about it and thought it was too good to be true, so they now wanted to apply before it was shut down. Basketball wives la season 5 episode 2 That upsurge in applications is the primary reason we’re in the position we’re in today. Landscape photography tips and techniques At that point, the Enterprise Minister, Jonathan Bell, brought legislation to a scrutiny committee and then to the Northern Ireland Assembly, to try to rein in the costs.

”I personally listened back to the audio of these committee meetings and I don’t think Jonathan Bell’s officials were very candid about the problems that existed. Baseball diamond vector They presented the scheme as something that shouldn’t provoke any major questions. Furrow irrigation The problems were swept under the carpet.

“In February 2016, Jonathan Bell went to close the scheme completely because he realised it was going to be a huge and unsustainable burden on the Exchequer. Basketball court At that point, it was debated on the floor of the Assembly.

“I don’t think people had grasped yet the strong whiff of corruption that surrounded it. Pavestone But the BBC Spotlight programme, broadcast in December, really brought it to a wider audience, and revealed the scale of the incompetence behind it.” STORY BECAME PUBLIC

After the Spotlight programme, a spat broke out between the former Minister Jonathan Bell and First Minister Arlene Foster, both members of the DUP. Baseball players They disagreed over who was to blame for the failure of the scheme, with Bell laying the blame firmly at Foster’s door. Gardenia As it happens, Sam McBride believes that blaming any one person is too simplistic.

“The honest answer is that we don’t know who exactly is to blame,” he says. Pitch in music “This is why a full inquiry is absolutely imperative. Softball field dimensions Major responsibility lies with civil servants in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, who were completely asleep at the wheel, if you adopt even the most benign interpretation.

”Then Arlene Foster signed off on a whole list of documents where she was affirming that she had read the information and was satisfied with the costs. Spring training 2016 cardinals Why? Her special adviser – who is very handsomely rewarded with a salary of £85,000 to look out for these sorts of technical problems – completely missed out on this. Asphalt 7 apk data In fact, we now know also that the adviser in question had a brother-in-law who was claiming to heat a property under the RHI scheme. Asphalt 8 soundtrack (The advisor in question has resigned since this article was first published.)

“At the same time, the scheme wasn’t scrutinised by MLAs in the Assembly, although to some extent you could excuse that, considering that the information they were presented with had been coloured.

“When we look at when Jonathan Bell went to close down the scheme,” he adds, “even after it had gone catastrophically wrong, he put out a press release saying that it had been a huge success, when in fact he knew that it was quite the opposite. Spring training schedule 2016 florida So there are major implications for DUP figures in this.”

Very rarely do political outrages in Northern Ireland not involve some kind of sectarian or religious backdrop – but the RHI scandal appears to be a case of basic incompetence. Unilock pavers The vast waste of money in the current crisis, set alongside budgetary cuts in areas like Health and Education, makes for very uneasy reading.

“I think this is a failure of the entire political system in Northern Ireland,” Sam says bluntly. Fencing classes nyc “I think there will be a suspicion that the aversion to an inquiry is because the DUP are tied up in this in some way. Pitch in meaning That may be the case, but there is equal reason to believe that a public inquiry would really tease out, in full public view, just how dysfunctional Stormont really is. Fences windows 10 free We have to remember that this happened under Sinn Fein’s watch too. Lone star softball message board They’re meant to be holding their government partners to account, holding civil servants to account. Francesca battistelli free to be me lyrics There are very uncomfortable questions for them, in all this too.”

If the crisis has focussed attention on the dysfunctionality of Stormont, one sector of Northern Irish society which has grown in status as a result is journalism itself. Landscaping Writers like Sam McBride have been vigilant in their efforts to uncover the truth and to hold politicians to account. Timber merchants north london I ask Sam if he’s felt any heat, for confronting politicians.

“I would say that, as a party, the DUP have put no pressure officially on my publication,” he responds. Pictures of gardens “Having said that, an employee in Arlene’s office tweeted that the Newsletter should be boycotted and that I was biased in my reporting. Facebook app keeps crashing That tweet was immediately endorsed by two sitting MLAs.

“It also has to be said that Stephen Nolan on Radio Ulster, both in early December and again in January, faced what sounded like a clear threat from the MP Gregory Campbell. Landscape designer salary Mr. Youth soccer Campbell said on-air that he would be ‘digging into’ Stephen – because Stephen was digging into the RHI scandal.

“Meanwhile, a very odd message was sent to me personally by the Sinn Fein Irish Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile, asking: ‘Has Sam McBride has his collar felt yet?’, meaning, ‘Have I been arrested yet?’ So this scandal has shown that both the DUP and Sinn Fein aren’t averse to leaning on journalists. High pitched cough Neither party have done so in an official way – but certainly there have been senior figures, who have put pressure on the journalists that have been asking the difficult questions.”

Throughout their ten year coalition, the DUP and Sinn Fein have always walked on shaky ground. Drip from my walk instrumental On numerous occasions they’ve threatened to bring the devolved institutions of NI down. Espn fantasy football app not compatible With Martin McGuinness’ decision to resign, those threats have finally become reality. Baseball teams in texas So where does this leave politics in NI?

“Sinn Fein had been talking very tough about what they might do,” he reflects. Cobblestone minecraft “A lot of people thought – because they have repeatedly backed down in the past – that this would again happen. Japanese landscape tattoo It may be a case that Martin McGuinness’ health was a factor in this, but for whatever reason, the party have radically shifted their position and are now saying that the Stormont institutions are no longer sacrosanct. Spring training locations in florida That has very serious implications for the future of governance here.”

All we can say for sure right now is that fresh elections have been called for March 2. Taffeta fabric characteristics No one knows what the shape of the new Assembly will be or if the DUP and Sinn Fein can find common ground to work together again. Basketball finals channel Senior members of Sinn Fein have raised other issues outside of the RHI scandal, including the fact that DUP Minister for Communities, Paul Givan, slashed funds to an Irish language initiative. Basketball rio 2016 scores So are the DUP’s long-time partners in government using the current crisis for political gain?

“There is one aspect of this that could cause a major shift,” Sam tells me. Natural stone bridge and caves “It’s the fact that there are a lot of people who have little or no interest in politics who have been infuriated by the RHI situation. Basketball leagues near me 50% of people in NI do not vote, so if even 10% of those people voted in a particular way, that would have a massive impact. High pitch sound So I think the future shape of this country, in many ways, lies within the hands of people who have hitherto not voted.”

The old adage about people who don’t vote having no voice seems more important than ever in the midst of this crisis. Mutual materials tacoma With unionists and nationalists alike preparing to voice their discontent, we can only hope that fresh elections will bring meaningful, positive change to the political landscape.

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