Once more the NI Executive is on the brink of collapse as Arlene Foster ignores calls to step aside – not least from the DUP’s coalition partner, Sinn Féin – until an inquiry into the RHI overspend takes place. The outrage comes almost two weeks after Foster made an announcement to the Assembly as First Minister without the agreement of the deputy First Minister. Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir warned that ‘the political institutions will collapse’ if she continues to defy the public mood and not step aside.
Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, Arlene Foster claimed that calls for her to step aside were ‘misogynistic’. She went on to once more highlight the attack on her father and herself by the IRA during the Troubles. However, such claims have gained her little sympathy and she has been accused by opponents of creating any ‘headline’ necessary to detract from the RHI scandal. It’s doubtful that the guinea pig meme she posted on Facebook will discourage her critics.
The DUP Economy Minister, Simon Hamilton, has claimed he has a plan to reduce the £400mil RHI overspend to zero. The announcement of the plan, however, comes without a single detail. With the Treasury in London footing over £600 million of the bill it is unlikely the Executive will receive anymore financial help from Westminster. In order to claw back the projected economic damage it is likely the Executive will implement the financial strategy of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’.
Nicola Sturgeon has brought forward plans for Scotland to remain inside the Single Market. The Scottish First Minister has proposed that Scotland could receive a number of additional devolved powers to help it achieve a ‘soft brexit’, rather than the ‘hard Brexit’ sought after by Theresa May. However, Sturgeon’s proposals have been dubbed as an attempt at gaining Scottish independence through the back door.
The US intelligence community has released a report concluding that Russia sought to help Trump win the US Presidential election. Russian involvement has been described as a reflection of ‘Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order’. US intelligence agencies have accused the Russian Government of leading a cyber attack by funding ‘trolls’ to denigrate Democratic candidate, Hilary Clinton. President-elect Donald Trump blamed the hacking of Democratic computers on the party’s ‘negligence’.