Sinn Féin’s party chairman says elections will likely be called if Arlene Foster does not follow his party’s “advice” and step aside to allow an investigation into the RHI scandal to take place.
Mr Kearney, speaking in a radio interview with the BBC this morning, said that if the DUP leader did not step aside “then we are arguably into a situation where we will see elections.”
Mr Kearney had been speaking to the BBC following mixed messages from the party yesterday on whether Sinn Féin supports a full public inquiry into the Renewable Heating Incentive scandal.
Last night Sinn Féin said that a “typo” had been responsible for Mr Declan Kearney stating – both in an article for Sinn Fein newspaper An Phoblacht and a press release issued by the party – that he supported a “comprehensive, independent public inquiry”.
The South Antrim MLA’s statement was withdrawn less than two hours after being issued and a replacement statement then put out which did not contain the words “public inquiry”.
Speaking today, Mr kearney told the BBC: “One of the distinct possibilities is that if the DUP leader does not follow Sinn Féin’s advice and step aside from her office to allow a robust, independent investigation to take place into this matter in order to restore the public confidence that has been rocked by these revelations, then we are arguably into a situation where we will see elections.
“The tipping point is that we now have a bigger problem and that goes to the very core of the actual value of the institutions. If we have political institutions that do not reflect equality, parity of esteem, mutual respect and an ability to actually deliver transformation for people in our community, and those institutions are increasingly becoming detached from the reality of people’s lives, then those institutions no longer have any value.”
Asked specifically whether he would call for a snap election, Mr Kearney said: “We are putting a motion to the Assembly on the 16th of January. “We’re going to require that the First Minister stand aside in order to facilitate that independent, time-framed, robust and transparent investigation.
“If that motion is passed, and I would hope that the other parties will join us in taking that forward, we can potentially avert a deepening of this crisis. However, if we do not succeed in attaining those conditions then I think we are into an entirely new situation because the position of the DUP leader will be rendered completely untenable.”
Mr Kearney added: “We are already into the territory of grave consequences. This is very, very serious political situation. We have never seen a crisis of this nature in the north in the last ten years. This is much bigger than simply the fitness for office of the DUP leader. This is a situation now where the political institutions will cease to have value if they do not reflect equality, mutual respect and parity of esteem.”
The Sinn Féin chairman also attempted to clarify his party’s position on the need for a full public inquiry, saying: “We have called, and our motion to the Assembly reflects the need for, an international jurist to be appointed by the attorney general to come in and oversee an appropriate, robust, independent and transparent investigation.
“The issue here is about restoring public confidence. It will be essential for that investigation to completely reveal, on a time-framed basis, exactly what has gone on at the very heart of this scandal.
“What I don’t want to see is some kind of an indefinite, ongoing, interminable public inquiry that people have to wait years on to see completed. We need answers now.”