Northern Ireland

Newspaper headlines: Political heat rises in RHI furore

Front page of the News Letter on Thursday, 12 January

The renewable heating scheme scandal continues to raise the political temperature in Thursday's newspaper headlines.

The Irish News has confirmation from Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir that he has "finally" received a DUP plan to tackle the "cash-for-ash" overspend in the botched green energy scheme that could cost Northern Ireland taxpayers £490m.

Mr Ó Muilleoir said he would ask his officials to scrutinise the proposals that are understood to recommend cutting payments in the short term to around 1,800 people who joined the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme before cost controls were introduced in late 2015.

His Sinn Féin colleague Martin McGuinness has penned an article in the Belfast Telegraph in which he says the RHI debacle is not an "orange and green issue".

The party will not "tolerate the arrogance of the DUP any longer", he says, but adds that successive British governments have "failed in their responsibilities to the Good Friday and other agreements" and that the Irish government has "acted like a disinterested bystander".

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire is quoted in the Daily Mirror saying his focus is on the "here and now" as he continues to push for a resolution to the Stormont crisis.

He admits an election is a "high probability", but says he will keep engaging with politicians.

Image caption Martin McGuinness told the Belfast Telegraph he had put every effort into making the political institutions work

Elsewhere, the News Letter says Sinn Féin's leaders set out contradictory positions on their future political path on Wednesday.

It says Michelle O'Neill told reporters in Belfast her party was "not interested" in talks ahead of an election, while in Dublin Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams suggested they were "always open for talks".

Inside the newspaper it says Stormont ministers are "at odds" over whether a scheme to mitigate the impact of the "bedroom tax" in Northern Ireland is possible.

DUP Communities Minister Paul Givan has rejected a claim by Mr Ó Muilleoir that the 2016 Budget Act enables the release of the payments.

'Funeral costs'

The Irish News front page story says questions have been raised again about public funding for Charter NI, after police were forced to escort a former associate of its chief executive Dee Stitt to safety following intimidation from a UDA mob.

It says police escorted the man and his partner from their Bangor home on Tuesday night when several men showed up outside the address amid warnings that he would be shot dead if he did not leave the coastal town.

The Belfast Telegraph front page focuses on a woman murdered in England.

Kerri McAuley, 32, was found dead in a property in Norwich on Sunday. Her ex-partner, Joe Storey, 26, of Murrells Court in the city, has been charged with her murder.

The Daily Mirror also reports that the PSNI have no immediate plans to renew searches for missing County Down woman Lisa Dorrian, who was last seen at a party at a caravan site in Ballyhalbert in February 2005.

Despite land and sea searches, her body has never been found.