Timeline of events leading up to NI Assembly election

Jonathan Bell, a former Enterprise Minister, said he was doing his duty to Northern Ireland by shining a light on the controversial scheme which could cost the taxpayer around �400 million over the next 20 years. 
Bell said there were documents, emails, times and dates that showed hundreds of millions of pounds were "abused".
Jonathan Bell, a former Enterprise Minister, said he was doing his duty to Northern Ireland by shining a light on the controversial scheme which could cost the taxpayer around �400 million over the next 20 years. Bell said there were documents, emails, times and dates that showed hundreds of millions of pounds were "abused".

The timeline of events leading up to the calling of the Northern Ireland Assembly election and the subsequent campaign.

2016:

:: June - Allegations of a multimillion-pound “cash for ash” scandal in relation to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) eco-scheme. In response, auditors confirm they are investigating.

:: July - An Audit Office report into RHI says “serious systematic failings” would hit the Northern Ireland budget by “hundreds of millions of pounds”. The investigation was prompted when a whistleblower contacted the Northern Ireland Executive alleging that the scheme was being abused.

:: September - The Public Accounts Committee launches an investigation into the Audit Office’s findings. A series of key officials involved in the scheme give evidence about an initiative one committee member brands “the biggest financial scandal since devolution”.

:: December 6 - The Spotlight programme causes a public storm over RHI after revealing a whistleblower contacted the then economy minister Arlene Foster.

:: December 14 - DUP MLA Jonathan Bell, who succeeded Mrs Foster as the minister of the department that set up the RHI scheme, breaks party ranks to level a series of allegations against the First Minister and party advisers in an explosive TV interview. He claims he tried to pull the shutters down sooner on the scheme but was dissuaded by Mrs Foster and DUP advisers. Mrs Foster disputes his account.

:: December 16 - Martin McGuinness calls on Arlene Foster to “stand aside” as First Minister while the “cash for ash” scandal is investigated. Mrs Foster replies that she will not be stepping aside and “does not take her instructions from Sinn Fein”.

2017

:: January 4 - Arlene Foster again insists she will not stand down over the RHI scandal, adding that some calls for her to do so are “misogynistic”. DUP ministers say they are working on emergency legislation to bring the £490 million overspend to “zero”. But Sinn Fein finance minister Mairtin O’Muilleoir says he is “bemused” that the DUP announced it to the media before talking to him.

:: January 5 - Former DUP MLA David McIlveen criticises Mrs Foster for what he describes as the RHI “omnishambles”. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams says the political institutions have reached “a defining point” over the First Minister’s refusal to step aside.

:: January 9 - Martin McGuinness resigns as Deputy First Minister in protest at the DUP’s handling of the RHI scandal.

:: January 10 - Secretary of State James Brokenshire says the situation makes an assembly election look “highly likely”. He calls for talks with all parties to find a resolution to the crisis at Stormont.

:: January 11 - Sinn Fein says it will not enter negotiations ahead of new assembly elections. Prime Minister Theresa May says the Government is putting “every effort” in to ensure a solution is reached.

:: January 13 - RHI inspectors say they have suspended payments at more than half the boilers they have audited. Regulator Ofgem said of the 63 inspected, payments were suspended at 33. Five have since had payments reinstated after investigations.

:: January 16 - Sinn Fein refuses to nominate a Deputy First Minister to replace Martin McGuinness. Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire announces a snap Assembly election on March 2.

:: January 19: An ailing Mr McGuinness announces that he is not standing in the Assembly elections for Foyle. His decision overshadowed the same day resignation of a DUP special adviser who formerly worked with Mrs Foster amid allegations of exerting influence around the RHI.

:: January 23: Michelle O’Neill is named as the new leader of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland.

:: February 15 - Mrs O’Neill said she would not go back into government with the DUP leader while there was a RHI “cloud hanging over her”.

:: February 19: Amid controversy about the prosecution of British soldiers for conflict crimes, Mrs O’Neill marked the deaths of four IRA men shot dead by the SAS in 1992 in her home village.

:: February 23: The DUP demanded measures to ensure British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland cannot face probes into their actions during the conflict if they have already been investigated.

:: March 2: Voters go to the polls in the second Stormont Assembly elections in less than a year.