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Local community activist sets-up petition calling on First Minister to stand down

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Local community activist sets-up petition calling on First Minister to stand down thumbnailCommunity activist, Corey French, who has set-up an online petition calling for First Minister, Arlene Foster, to resign over the 'Cash for Ash' scandal.

A PETITION set-up by a Strabane community activist calling on Arlene Foster to stand down as First Minister amidst the ongoing controversy surrounding the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme has garnered hundreds of signatures.

At the time of going to press yesterday (Tuesday), 22-year-old Corey French's 'Arlene Foster must resign' petition on change.org had over 2,700 signatories.

The number of people putting their names to the petition has grown steadily as the fall-out over what has been dubbed the 'Cash for Ash' scandal continues this week.

At Stormont on Monday there were dramatic scenes as a vote of no confidence in DUP leader and First Minister was defeated in the Assembly.

The motion - tabled by the SDLP - called for the exclusion of the First Minister from office for six months but was defeated despite the majority of MLAs backing it 39 to 36. It failed to gain a cross-party majority and Sinn Fein abstained.

In a day of twists and turns at Stormont, members of the Assembly walked out of the chamber twice meanwhile Sinn Fein - the DUP's partners in government - has said it will table a fresh motion in January calling for the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA to 'step aside' until an independent investigation is conducted after an initial motion submitted on Monday was deemed "inadmissible" by the speaker.

The row, which is threatening the political institutions at Stormont, centres on the botched RHI scheme which could end up costing Northern Ireland's taxpayers 400m.

The scheme was set up by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) in 2012 to encourage businesses and other non-domestic users to move from using fossil fuels to renewable heating systems. However, flaws in setting the scheme's subsidy rate left it open to abuse as claimants could earn more cash the more fuel they burned.

A defiant Arlene Foster told Stormont on Monday that she will not resign over the furore but admitted that the lack of cost control measures in the design of the scheme was her "deepest political regret" as an MLA. She added that she is fully supportive of an independent investigation.

Despite surviving the no confidence motion, she looks likely to continue to face calls to reconsider her position when the Assembly resumes in the New Year.

Corey French says the First Minister must resign. His petition stated that "five minutes was needed to discover serious flaws" in the scheme.

It adds: "Her (Arlene Foster) department was made aware of such flaws but on her watch there was no action taken and as a result, the Northern Ireland taxpayers have been ripped off."

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