RHI is a huge scandal but SF is to blame for this divisive election

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

It has been a traumatic and almost unreal few days for Northern Ireland.

If either of the two biggest parties were engaging in brinkmanship over their disagreements on RHI and other matters, then it might be that events have spiralled out of their control.

An election now seems almost certain.

For more than a month this newspaper has said the RHI debacle was so serious that there needed to be a rigorous inquiry into the saga that can compel documents and witnesses. It was clear that the DUP had serious questions to answer, both ministers and their special advisors, over the scandal, which has led to disastrous financial losses.

But as extensive and ground-breaking News Letter reporting on the affair has shown, there are also serious questions for civil servants and others. Sinn Fein too has known about the RHI for more than a year.

However, this election – if indeed there is one – is wholly the fault of Sinn Fein. It claimed to be motivated by a desire to get to the truth in RHI, yet it has continued to walk away even when the DUP offered that outcome.

This is, it seems, a calculated bid to force an election because, presumably, they feel that they will do better of it than the DUP does. That is a ruthless and reckless thing to do.

In any event, Sinn Fein self-righteousness over RHI is nauseating. It was once the political wing of the IRA, a terror group that inflicted wounds that will still be felt a century from now. Failures on RHI are dwarfed by that record.

It also still has dubious finances and troubling standards – opposing a National Crime Agency, for example, because it does not want to upset republican gangsters.

Sinn Fein have engaged in political vandalism before – when they agreed welfare reform then reversed and almost collapsed Stormont in 2015.

The opposition parties have been rightly holding the DUP to account on RHI. But they must be similarly clear-eyed on who is responsible for this needless, divisive election.