Before I begin this motion, let me address the intervention by the British Government this afternoon. The test under Section 1 is clear, it is a test of public concern. And I believe that is best satisfied by a democratically elected council demonstrating that concern.
Therefore whether the British Government makes a helpful intervention on behalf of the DUP and SF or not, the Secretary of State still has statutory responsibilities under the Inquiries Act 2005 and he should not be allowed to shirk them, or bury this motion with an 11th hour intervention- to try and save the un-saveable marriage of Marlene!
This motion comes before Council tonight to provide all of us, as public representatives, the opportunity to call on the Secretary of State to initiate a full public inquiry into the shambles that is the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.
I have listened in bewilderment as various parties have called for various forms of inquires, yet appear to continually insinuate that the DUP have some form of veto over a full public inquiry, or that their permission would be required to initiate such.
That is, colleagues, absolute nonsense.
Sinn Fein are full of bluster, full of flowery language- but it’s all nonsense. Because when it comes to the legislative mechanism that would actually enable a full public inquiry, they want to airbrush any mention of the Inquiries Act from this motion!
Sinn Fein have ended up at sixes and sevens over this motion. Their position, for the first time, has been flushed out. We even had that Sinn Fein stalwart, Mr Kearney, writing an article and then having to withdraw it from Sinn Fein’s own publication. How humiliating!
SF’s reasoning, apparently, is that a public inquiry could take too long or cost too much. Yes, that’s what SF- the serial public inquiry advocates- have said. I take it we will witness the immediate abandoning of their call for inquiries into Pat Finucance, Loughall and Ballymurphy etc then?
Their investigation proposal wants the Attorney General to select the Judicial figure- this would be the same Attorney General that is appointed by the DUP and SF through the Executive Office! That arrangement came about after yet another dirty deal at Hillsborough- but that’s a story for another day!
The DUP of course have moved on to trying to bully the media. They don’t want the public to read any paper besides those they approve.
Ms Fosters office worker wants us to boycott the Newsletter, the DUP are now attacking the BBC- yesterday we had Mr Wilson getting wound up about an ‘exclusive’ that was in the public domain 5 years ago! And previously they refused to speak to the Irish News! Like North Korea it appears the DUP have decreed the people may only read what they approve!
The requirements for a full public inquiry are laid out very clearly in Section 1 of the Inquires Act 2005. It is abundantly clear upon reading Section 1 that the Secretary of State has discretion to initiate a full public inquiry if- and I quote the act- “particular events have caused, or are capable of causing, public concern, or.. there is public concern that particular events may have occurred.”
In relation to the shambolic RHI scheme, it is impossible to see how the above conditions are not satisfied.
But how better to demonstrate public concern, than by an elected council placing on record our concern and therefore asking the Secretary of State to use his discretion contained within Section 1 and initiate a public inquiry.
The DUP have no veto, no emergency brake. They are not the custodians or arbitrators of public concern, so let us as a Council clearly satisfy the conditions laid out in Section 1 of the Inquires Act 2005, by placing the public concern on record in writing to the Secretary of State.
This is a way to subvert the DUP’s attempts to sweep this matter under the carpet. Under that carpet is already bulging with the skeletons of Red Sky, SIF, Nama, £5 land deals and numerous property scandals. And let me briefly highlight those appalling aforementioned matters, which it may appear have disappeared from public consciousness.
And talking about things drifting from the Public’s mind. Let me turn now to one of the biggest lies ever sold to the electorate of Northern Ireland. In the most recent Assembly elections the DUP, and their foot soldiers, trooped all around Northern Ireland telling the people that only a vote for Arlene Foster could keep Martin McGuiness out. Such a lie, and many of us called it for what it was at the time!
Arlene Foster cannot even speak without the permission of Martin McGuinness, well not withstanding the dubious assistance of the Charter NI advisor and Stormont Speaker Robin Newton. Yet the DUP told the electorate that a vote for them would keep Sinn Fein out! Lies, lies, lies! That, colleagues, is why my motion refers to the Joint First Minister Arlene Foster, because that is what she is.
The DUP cannot have it both ways, they want all the trappings of power, ministerial cars and expenses granted to them by virtue of the mandatory coalition structures of the Belfast Agreement, yet they want to pretend that such structures do not wed them to their partners in Government, Sinn Fein! Of course they do. So, in that regard, I was glad that the DUP’s electoral lie was woefully exposed- as the DUP leader spoke only to her fawning sheep, in an otherwise empty Assembly chamber.
Now that I have dealt with the practical matters, and highlighted the duplicity of the DUP, let us look at the burning- pardon the pun- matter of RHI.
This scheme is a farce, a waste of hundreds of millions- how many hundreds we don’t even know yet- of tax payers money. Why was the RHI scheme constructed in such a woeful manner? And who benefitted from such scandalous errors?
There have been serious allegations from a former DUP Minister, Mr Bell, of political corruption. These allegations need fully tested and investigated.
In relation to the DUP attempts to blacken Mr Bell- If any woman, or man, feels bullied, harassed or intimidated then they should always report such matters. It can never be a case of ‘the party comes first’ and thus such despicable behaviour is covered up. However, one must few with cynicism complaints that arise only after an individual has dared speak against the party. I would wonder why no such issues arose prior to Mr Bell exposing matters relating to alleged political corruption.
There are also other allegations in the public domain that DUP donors benefitted extraordinarily well from the scheme. If this is the case, and as yet we do not know, then this is a scandal that could well out-do every out recent DUP scandal- and my oh my, that takes some doing!
And in relation to the second part of my motion. I think every right think person within Northern Ireland believes Mrs Foster should step aside, not as an admission of guilt of any wrong doing, but at the very least to demonstrate some remorse for the horrendous squander that has taken place- and just to ensure Gregory Campbell doesn’t work himself up an end up screeching over the radio, squander that WILL take place. Mr Campbell of course does not accept there has been squander, because it will take 20 years for the squander to be complete. Such absurdity! So we aren’t raiding the current bank account, just spending the inheritance.
We increasingly see the arrogance of the DUP, a far cry from the party I joined. A family party under the leadership of the late Dr Paisley. It is a matter of great disappointment to me that the ‘Paisleyite’ wing of the party didn’t re-take the reins following the departure of Mr Robinson, who was himself, of course, embroiled in allegations of political corruption.
Perhaps those DUP members who ‘fought the good fight’ in the same vein as Dr Paisley may take the current opportunities available to them and turf Mrs Foster out. One can only hope.
I must say that I had great respect and hopes for Arlene Foster. But her arrogance has grown to such an extent that she appears a shadow of her former self. It appears she takes the attitude that she will do what she wants and how dare anyone- whether it be the opposition, the media, or the general public- question her or the DUP.
I hope I never displayed such arrogance or smugness, but in May I was humbled at the polls. And that is no bad thing, a bit of humility never done anyone any harm. So from a position of experience I can tell Mrs Foster, do the decent thing, show some humility and step aside- even for a short period of time. Because if you don’t, eventually your arrogance and smugness will be your undoing.
Someone close to me said on election day, suck it up, take it all in and let them gloat- one day it will all come crashing down around them. Perhaps today isn’t that day, but it is coming, and my oh my how many people will love to see them humbled and brought back to earth with a bang. NAMA, SIF and RHI… every dog indeed has its day!
To those in the DUP that have a conscicence. Going against your party isn’t easy. They will savage you, and perhaps- like me- you will even be savaged by the electorate…. but at least you won’t be tortured by your own conscience. History will judge you kindly.
I ask all of my colleagues in this chamber, regardless of party background, vote for what is right. Do what is right. Do not vote for your party- vote for the difference between right and wrong- because frankly- Northern Ireland deserves better!