EXCLUSIVE: Liofa U-turn alone will not stop election

Welcoming the news that Communities Minister Paul Givan has found £50k to fund the Liofa bursary, Mid Ulster MLA Michelle O'Neill said Sinn Fein still aim to 'go to the public and let them have their say' on RHI.

Thursday, 12th January 2017, 1:34 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th January 2017, 2:57 pm
Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill and Conor Murphy hold a press conference at Stormont following their meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire to discuss the crisis at the Assembly caused by the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal on Jan 11. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

Asked if Sinn Fein were worried about the prospect of going back to the polls the Health Minister said: “Absolutely not.”

But she did add that she questioned the motivation behind this morning’s announcement.

“For one, I welcome that it’s been reinstated,” she told the Mail.

“But for two, I question their overall motivation. Is it now because we are going to an election?

“Regardless of all that, I am glad the money has been reinstated,” she went on. “It’s the absolute right thing to do.”

But she said Liofa was just one of the reason’s behind Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness’s resignation.

“I have never heard the outcry which we have seen over the last weeks and months in relation to this (RHI).

“We have made it very clear. It’s not just about RHI. It is a scandal but this is the latest in a long line.

“It’s about arrogance on behalf of Arlene Foster and the DUP, but it’s also about their failure to deliver equality.

“There have been attacks on the Irish language time-and-time again, the LGBT sector, women.

“We can’t be in government with people who are not interested in equality, so unless there’s a fundamental shift in their approach, we just wouldn’t.

“This is about respect. People are entitled to have their identity in relation to the Irish culture and we can’t tolerate being in government with people who want to disrespect a section of our society.”

It is understood Minister Givan was facing a potential legal challenge over his decision to ditch the Gaeltacht bursary.

In a tweet this morning, he said: “My decision on the Liofa Bursary Scheme was not a political decision.”