UK government set to call snap Northern Ireland assembly election over renewable heat incentive ‘debacle’

The UK government is set to call a snap assembly election in the wake of McGuinness’s resignation over the renewable heat incentive debacle, which has left the administration in Belfast with a £490 million (€562m) bill, according to media reports.

According to the Guardian, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland is to address MPs after deputy first minister Martin McGuinness’s resignation plunged the power-sharing agreement into crisis.

James Brokenshire will update the House of Commons on Tuesday (10 January, 2016) after the deputy first minister resigned in protest at the Democratic Unionists’ handling of a botched green energy scheme.

The decision by the Sinn Féin  member of the legislative assembly for Foyle to walk away after 10 years of sharing power with the DUP came as the first minister, Arlene Foster, refused to stand aside to facilitate an investigation into the renewable heat incentive (RHI), or “cash for ash”, furore.

Foster, the DUP leader, oversaw the doomed RHI during her time as economy minister. She had rejected Sinn Féin’s demands to step down temporarily pending the outcome of a preliminary investigation.

Under the structures of the peace process-forged institutions, neither Stormont’s first minister nor deputy first minister can remain in post without the other, so unless Sinn Féin replaces McGuinness in the next seven days, his resignation spells the end of Foster’s tenure. McGuinness made clear on Monday that his party would not replace him.

“We in Sinn Féin will not tolerate the arrogance of Arlene Foster and the DUP,” he said. “I believe today is the right time to call a halt to the DUP’s arrogance.”

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