RHI scandal: Most pressing question over scheme ‘still not answered’

Steve Aiken said Arlene Foster delivered a 'long-winded essay'
Steve Aiken said Arlene Foster delivered a 'long-winded essay'

The Ulster Unionist Party has hit out at First Minister Arlene Foster for not setting out a plan to mitigate the financial disaster of the Renewable Heat Incentive.

UUP economy spokesperson Steve Aiken said Mrs Foster’s appearance at the Assembly on Monday to make a statement on the failed green energy programme was an opportunity for the DUP leader to set out a plan to recoup a significant part of the public funds which have been committed to the scheme over the next 20 years.

“No such plan was forthcoming today. Instead we got a long-winded essay, which did not have the imprimatur of the Executive Office, again seeking to spread the blame and still refusing to take responsibility for this fiasco.

“Mrs Foster regrets, but will not apologise for her role in the renewable heat scandal. She is still holding to the line that she knew nothing.”

Mr Aiken added that the most pressing question surrounding the RHI debacle remains unanswered: how the first minister is going to mitigate the losses in the public finances.

He added: “As a responsible Opposition, we have already proposed the idea of a windfall tax on excessive and unjustifiable profits from the scheme.

“The first minister said last week that she would recoup around half of the projected costs.

“Today was going to be the day when she set out the Arlene plan. However, no plan has been set out today. Simon Hamilton is going to come back with his plan in the new year, apparently.

“This is a pathetic and unacceptable state of affairs for the taxpayers of Northern Ireland.”

The Assembly is meant to be in recess until January 8 and Monday’s session had been convened solely for the purpose of shedding some light on the RHI scandal.