This is a brilliant Irish Times Article from Northern Ireland Newsletter journalist Sam McBride - someone who knows the N.I Executive and its workings very well.
It explains the deep issues with the NI Executive and how the differences and the system itself has led to years of problems which don't look to be sorted any time soon
One area that is the most searched in the website is policy differences between Sinn Fein and the DUP. Just in case, this is a slight overview in case it helps :-) Unfortunately, as is the case with most manifestos from NI parties they spout generic phrases and promises about the real issues of health and education but in reality these are the key issues that divide them .. and sadly on what people vote them in on..
PARTY WEBSITES for more detailed manifesto links
NI ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS 2017 - HOW WE ENDED UP HERE:
This article from the Guardian is an excellent insight into the NI Elections and its current pitfalls and dangers.
The past year has saw the emergence of Northern Ireland's new and official opposition. The UUP and then the SDLP rejected the offer of Executive posts and declared themselves Official Opposition parties following the 2016 Assembly election. This was a significant step in the new Northern Ireland institutions and a major one in the road to democracy. Sinn Fein and the DUP initially scoffed at this and declared it a betrayal of the Good Friday Agreement. They 'endured' any Opposition motion or Opposition days with mild annoyance and frustration and seemed to not take the Opposition seriously.
The DUP and SDLP initially worked on their opposition roles tentatively. This produced a mixed and confused message as the first main opposition day was trumpeted as a victory yet saw the two parties with varying approaches to the issues. Since this they have coordinated a great deal and have even had the sight of Colum Eastwood at the UUP conference. It is the present revelations of the Cash for Ash scandal which is galvanising the two parties into a much more serious prospect of an opposition - The two parties sense the need to hold the DUP to account for this monumental failure of government. This is something they both agree on which helps them form a combined effort in their approach.
There is no doubt a lot to gain for the opposition parties. They are now not in the executive which is indeed tainted by scandal and has an air of incompetence. They stand to gain from this in reputation. The UUP can indeed in future perhaps gain seats as the previously unstoppable DUP juggernaut has shown itself to indeed be vulnerable. Only in November the DUP were claiming UUP scalps as defectors crossed into their ranks. Perhaps the tide may turn in the UUP's favour
However, the UUP and SDLP must understand that they cannot be wholly absolved from this scandal. They were in the Executive when this was being decided. They were present at committee meetings into this and could and should have asked questions regarding this. Was this a failure of scrutiny and a failure of accountability which the NI Assembly as a whole needs to ask questions about?
If you had a question on the DUP how could you include Cash for Ash :
Occasionally there comes a topic which CANNOT be ignored for the Politics course and the so called Cash for Ash or Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) scandal is one such topic! You have to understand this as it can be used for so many of your topic areas from executive to assembly to opposition to Speaker to Parties.
What is the Cash for Ash scandal?
The Cash for Ash scandal is a scandal involving a Renewable Heat initiative scheme set up by the Northern Ireland Executive and in particular Arlene Foster who was Minister of Enterprise Trade and investment at the time. It was set up to encourage the growth of renewable heat in Northern Ireland in place of fossil fuels. The goal was to have 10% of the country using renewable alternatives by 2020. Companies or individuals would be encouraged to use environmental sources such as solar or biomass boilers. They were given financial incentives for setting these up. They were also to be given generous subsidies over 20 years for the schemes usage. Up to this point everything seems OK.
What is the catch?
The catch in this case is that the Northern Ireland scheme at some point veered away from the same scheme running successfully in Great Britain. The Northern Ireland scheme somehow removed the all important upper payment limit paid out to those involved in the scheme. This means that in Northern Ireland participants can get paid large amounts of money for keeping their burners on constantly. It could essentially net participants hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax payers money simply by keeping burning. One farmer was estimated to make nearly £1 million over 20 years by heating an empty barn! A Ferrari garage in Belfast is also running the scheme.
What are the financial implications?
While the UK government intends to fund £600 million of the costs to be accrued over 20 years, the NI Executive will have to foot a £490 million bill over this time - This is 3% of the annual block grant every year for 20 years. It is an act of self inflicted incompetence of staggering proportions which was only revealed through the actions of a whistleblower and the BBC.
What are the political implications?
The political implications of this scandal are immense! Firstly the credibility of the whole NI Assembly as an institution is at stake. The First Minister Arlene Foster is very much in the spotlight as the person resonsible for this scheme at the time and is being heavily scrutinised and put under pressure to stand down. The Executive itself has been shaken to its core with major disagreements apparent with Sinn Ferin over the scandal and how to deal with it. The DUP is under immense strain as one of its members, Jonathan Bell, very publicly blamed Arlene Foster for the schemes failures in an interview with Stephen Nolan which rocked the seemingly unrockable DUP. The Speaker has been heavily criticised over his actions or inactions regarding the crisis and the Opposition is making waves for the first time as the whole Executive is put under intense pressure. I will put each of these into detail
KEY EXPLANIER GUIDES TO CASH FOR ASH
Mr John Wishart -