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Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 6:15 pm on 23rd January 2017.

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Photo of Eamonn McCann Eamonn McCann People Before Profit Alliance 6:15 pm, 23rd January 2017

That is fair enough, Mr Speaker. I will. I have to say to you that in the course of the debate — it has been a lengthy one — we have had passages of debate in which the regulations, or anything associated with them, were not mentioned for five or 10 minutes. I have certainly said nothing so far that was as far removed from the regulations as other Members have been — repeatedly — in the debate. However, I will leave that particular aspect of it there.

Mr Speaker, you will be aware, as we all are, of the extent to which — I think that it was Mr Smith who referred to the fact that he had never encountered anger like it. I have to say that I have; I have encountered more anger on the streets over other issues over time. Nevertheless, I take your point. There is a lot of anger and dismay and a widespread belief that the RHI scheme is a racket, and that is not good for any of us. I am not saying that I endorse that belief, but people are disgusted, and anyone who has talked to people in the community about it will know that the RHI scheme is seen as a racket. That is what people believe it to be. Everything that they hear about it — what they hear is accurate — is about dodgy practices and people being secretly or confidentially alerted to the fact that a scheme existed and were told to fill their boots with public money. When people hear that and consider it against the background of all the things that have led up to it — anyone can rhyme them off. There was Research Services Ireland a few years ago. That was a 'Spotlight' production too, was it not? If I am right, that was in November 2014.

Incidentally, there were attacks on the media here. If it was not for 'Spotlight' shining its light, we would still be in the dark about many of these things. I pay tribute to Stephen Nolan, Sam McBride, Allison Morris and all the other journalists, who have given great service to this community, far better than that given by some people in parties in here over recent weeks, by bringing these shocking events and situations to the public mind. We would not have been here, as someone remarked, if it had not been for honest, investigative journalism in this part of the world. Everybody would be trundling on in a complacent manner. Far from attacking the media, we should be giving it credit and praise. Some of the remarks about the media from the DUP Benches reminded me of a Donald Trump press conference, in which he called out people and asked them, "How dare you tell the truth? We have got an alternative truth that we are promoting. How dare you tell the facts!" That was the tone of some of the remarks from the DUP Benches.

At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves what are we going to do about all this? What is "all this"? "All this" is not just RHI. We all know that one of the reasons for the seething anger that Mr Smith referred to is that it is not the first such thing to come before the public. It was the last straw, not the first example. It came after Research Services Ireland and then — all these incidents have something in common — Red Sky, NAMA and all the rest, and on those you cannot say, "One side is as bad as the other". You cannot; it is not the case.