Northern Ireland

RHI scandal: Reaction to Jonathan Bell's revelations

Stephen Nolan interviewed Jonathan Bell on Thursday night's Nolan Show
Image caption The DUP's former Economy Minister, Jonathan Bell, made the revelations on the BBC's Nolan Show

Stormont has been rocked by allegations in the so-called 'cash-for-ash' scandal which could cost NI taxpayers £400m.

The DUP's Jonathan Bell claimed Arlene Foster's advisers tried to remove her name from emails linked to the scheme. They deny any wrongdoing.

Mrs Foster set up the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme in 2012, but overgenerous subsidies meant the more claimants burned, the more they earned.

She has told BBC News NI if documents were altered "it wasn't on my say-so".

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Media captionArlene Foster says that if attempts were made to alter papers it "wasn't on my say-so"

Political parties have been quick to respond to the unfolding scandal:

Alliance Party leader, Naomi Long

"The interviews given by the first minister and Jonathan Bell raise more questions than they answer. They are internally inconsistent, as well as conflicting with each other.

"We believe that an independent judge-led inquiry may now be the only means of establishing the objective facts in a manner which is capable of restoring public confidence in the devolved institutions.

"At the very least, the first minister should step aside for the duration of that investigation and all paperwork and correspondence relating to RHI should be released publicly as we have previously stated."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

"I think she (Mrs Foster) should step aside for a period.

"The only way we can find out the truth now is if all the documents that have been referenced to are put into the public domain.

"The most important thing things to know are who designed this scheme, why was it designed differently to the British scheme, who benefited from the scheme and at how many different points could this scheme have been stopped.

"I think we are now in the realm of some sort of a public inquiry - the public desperately need some confidence put back into our institutions."

DUP MLA Sammy Wilson

"An adviser is there to advise, you can show the adviser the door any time you want.

"A minister is there to make the decisions - special advisers don't make the decisions.

"I don't believe that there is any need for a public inquiry."

"(I have been) one of the few people in the assembly who ever challenged the way in which we have bowed down to this green guff."

TUV Leader Jim Allister

"Duplicity in politics is never pleasant. So, it is good to see it exposed.

"What Jonathan Bell did would not have been easy, because for years he has been an insider in a party where control freakery is its modus operandi. 'The Party comes first' is not just a cliché to be trotted out by bullying Spads (special advisers), but it is part of its creed.

"I suspect only the judicial inquiry that Mr Bell called for could get to the full truth.

Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy

"Confidence in the entire institution has been dented very badly.

"We have to find out who was responsible and then hold people to account.

"We will have to wait and see what Arlene Foster says on Monday - people asked her to answer questions in the assembly and that is what she has agreed to do."

Ulster Unionist Party leader, Mike Nesbitt

"We are not at the end of the journey.

"What I really want to see is all the paperwork made public.

"If that happens, I am in no doubt whatsoever that Mrs Foster will have been seen to have made policy decisions which resulted in the situation where we are currently looking at a £400m overspend."

"I would like to see the Public Accounts Committee complete its work because they are a long way down the road."

"There is more than one whistleblower, in my opinion."

Image copyright Twitter/Mike Nesbitt

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry

"We need a full, judge-led public inquiry that could be established in the next number of weeks."

"At present, Arlene Foster's moral authority to lead is gone."

"She does not have the credibility to ask organisations to tighten their belts around public spending in the wake of this scandal."

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan

"You heard it here first - Biggest scandal in NI history' my words have certainly come true tonight! Shocking revelations!"

"First Minister must resign immediately pending a full investigation & conclusion on the findings. There can be no political hiding places!"

Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken

"Maybe heading to same electronic bonfire as Charter NI accounts-if they think E Mails can't be retrieved their in dreamland."

Former Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay

"There clearly now needs to be a Public Enquiry into #RHI and the First Minister should stand aside given the magnitude of these allegations."

Former SDLP minister Mark H Durkan

"I remember Arlene Foster roaring at me that I couldn't stop fracking here. But I did it anyway."

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds

"Proud that @DUPleader Arlene is leading our country."

DUP MLA Emma Little-Pengelly

"We have a strong leader in @DUPleader - confident resolution to address any underserving windfalls will be found"

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson

"And the real questions of tonight should be who benefitted? and who stood to benefit? and how do we stop it? @allianceparty"

UKIP leader in Northern Ireland, David McNarry

In a statement, Mr McNarry called on the Northern Ireland sectary of state to step in and "assist with restoring some credibility to Stormont".

He also said the secretary of state should ask the Treasury to fully investigate the Stormont version of the RHI scheme.

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