Tensions rose between Northern Ireland’s two largest parties as Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness resigned from his position as Deputy First Minister in a protest move against the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) handling of a failed renewable energy scheme. His opponent, First Minister Arlene Foster (of the DUP) has come under scrutiny over the last month for refusing to step down in the face of a conflict of interest, and her party’s handling of the scandal.
The scheme in question aimed to increase the amount of heat coming from renewable energy sources by providing financial incentives to those who installed renewable heat systems. It was introduced in 2012 by current First Minister, Arlene Foster, while she led the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. An investigation was launched following a whistleblower’s claims that the scheme was being abused, including by a farmer who wanted to collect £1 million for heating an empty shed!
Costs exploded since the program was not capped, leaving Irish taxpayers with a £400 million bill over 20 years. Since they share a joint office, McGuinness’s resignation from the Deputy First Minister role subsequently removes Foster as First Minister. Northern Ireland will now likely hold a snap election in the near future, less than a year after the last election was held.