Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin TD has responded to the news that the North’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is to resign his position on foot of the Renewable Heating Initiative controversy and has demanded fresh elections just eight months after the last such election.

Deputy Martin commented, “Like many others, I have watched with growing dismay over recent weeks as ever more outrageous details emerged about this scheme. It was my hope that an agreement could be reached to facilitate a robust inquiry into this scandal and that, in the meantime, parties in the north could work together to introduce legislation that would move to cap the exposure of the taxpayer.

“However, the decision of Mr McGuinness to resign his position and Sinn Féin’s demand for new elections means that neither of those things will now happen. Instead, the stage is now being set for a bitter election campaign that will not address any of the issues that led us to this point, and the future of the institutions is thrown into serious doubt.

“Our fear is that party political interests have now overtaken the public interest. The behaviour of the DUP and its leader since the BBC Spotlight programme highlighting the scale and impact of this issue has been infuriating. Rather than acknowledge the genuine concern of the general public, an attempt was made to reheat the discredited language of the conflict and assume the worst of motives on behalf of anyone who sought accountability.

“However, Sinn Féin’s decision to respond by pulling the plug and demanding fresh elections would appear to do very little to address any of the underlying problems and does nothing to deal with the challenge of limiting taxpayer exposure. Indeed, it is likely to have significantly delayed any movement in that regard.

“In the wider context, it is a source of very serious concern that at a key moment, just as the British Government prepares to trigger Article 50 and start negotiations on the UK’s exit from the European Union, the region that stands to lose most and requires the greatest level of focus to protect its position, is without a Government, is facing a bitter election campaign, and is mired in recriminations and distrust.

“At a time when people in the North need their representatives to step up to the plate, put differences aside and fight together in the common interest to meet a once in a generation threat, they have been very badly let down by the ruling parties of DUP and Sinn Féin.

“We in Fianna Fáil have been warning for some time about the growing dysfunction within the Northern political establishment and we have been very critical of the failure of the Irish and British Governments to fully engage with Northern Ireland and the fact that they have taken stability and progress in the North for granted. The effect of that disengagement is now clear to see,” concluded Martin.