By Vyomi Chheda
After the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein Party refused to nominate a candidate following his resignation on 17 January, Northern Ireland called for re-elections which will take place on March 2. James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced on Monday evening that the assembly will sit for the last time on 25 January and will be dissolved on 26 January.
The First Minister and the Deputy First Minister are two important positions held in Northern Ireland. If either of them is empty, the government is dissolved.
Northern Ireland will vote to elect a new assembly on March 2, after Martin McGuiness resigned | Photo Courtesy: The Sun, UK
McGuinness had earlier called for the First Minister and Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster to step aside temporarily while she was being investigated in the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal
“Cash for Ash”
Set up in 2012, the Renewable Housing Incentive (RHI) scheme provided for every household, farm and industry that switched to green heating systems to get more cash than required to burn. So “the more you burn, the more you earn”. Generous amounts of subsidies were given to the people. This scheme was set up under Arlene Foster when she was the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
As good as it may sound, the truth came to light when a whistleblower threw light on the scheme’s expenditure. It was noted that there was an excess expenditure of billions of pounds and the excess subsidies paid are estimated to cost the taxpayers approximately £490 million ($591 million).
[su_pullquote]Foster’s name was involved in the scandal along with other higher officials[/su_pullquote]
Foster’s name was involved in the scandal along with other higher officials. It is because of this alleged involvement that Sinn Fein’s McGuinness wanted her to step aside until she was cleared of all charges. Foster, however, refused, forcing McGuinness to resign as the Deputy First Minister. She said that she was “disappointed” with his resignation and also added that “it was clear that Sinn Fein’s actions are not principled; they are political.”
Although the collaboration government has stood in Northern Ireland for long, this scandal isn’t the only issue the two parties disagree on. After UK’s Brexit vote, the DUP backed leaving EU whereas McGuinness called for a referendum for Northern Ireland to join the Republic of Ireland (still a part of EU).
Looking at the political instability, British Prime Minister Theresa May made a last attempt to persuade the two parties to maintain peace and stability in the region that would give them a stronger voice for Brexit
The March elections will see most of the campaigning relying on two major issues: the RHI scandal and Brexit. They will also play a major role in deciding Northern Ireland’s future in EU and UK’s weighing voice in the Brexit negotiations.
Featured Image Source: Wikiwand.
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