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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

Absolutely. It is one of the sadder aspects of all this. As anyone who has campaigned on environmental matters will know, one of the big hurdles when you are arguing for the need for something like the renewable heat incentive scheme in terms of energy efficiency, controlling CO2 emissions and all the rest of it is that people think that environmental things are just too expensive, are not practical or do not bring jobs and all the rest of it. The little saga that we have had here will make that much more difficult. The RHI scheme was, on the face of it, intended to make a contribution to protecting the environment and might well have done so. The controversy that has arisen, mainly because of the DUP — I keep saying, "Sinn Féin and the DUP", but let us be clear about it: there is no equality of arms in this. The DUP is the star of this production. Sinn Féin may be in line for an award as best supporting actor, but this whole thing is a DUP production. They are responsible for it and for the damage done to environmental campaigning.

It seems to People Before Profit that we do not need just a proper investigation into what happened or just the regulations, although they are a little better than nothing. We can deal elsewhere with the question of the 2005 Act under which there will be an inquiry. That is not a perfect document either — far, far from it.

Can I just throw this in, with your indulgence, Mr Speaker? No, I will leave it.

We need a different type of politics here if we are to avoid debates, scandals and issues like this in another mandate. I know that I have said this before, but the perception that RHI was a racket has added and contributed to a perception that Stormont itself is a racket. That is what is out there. People have a cynicism about this place. We might have thought a couple of months back that it could not get any deeper or darker — well, it just has because of this. We are undermining trust. I am not too worried about undermining the status of the Assembly because of the regulations and the RHI. Every time you look down, Mr Speaker, I mention the regulations to remind you that I am being relevant with all this. What I am saying is that we believe that we need a different type of politics that does not need the separation of Departments into silos or to be policed by SpAds and spivs. We need a system of government in which the interests of the people come first. To my mind, that requires a socialist approach; others might disagree and will not go the whole hog with me. The fact of the matter is that we need a different type of politics in Northern Ireland, and, if we do not get that after 2 March, we are doomed — doomed — to go through this little circle of hell yet again and to make no progress. Surely after all these years and all this time, we can say to the people, as we say to the people — Catholic, Protestant or anything else — "Vote for a change. Voting the way you have always voted is how the problem arose. That is where the problem is rooted in the first place".

I believe that we are better than this. I believe that the people of the North are better than this. The working class of the North are 10 times better than the sordid shenanigans going on here. Give the people working-class politics, as People Before Profit is trying to do, and we may not have to go through this nightmare again.