The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal – which has prompted Martin McGuinness’s resignation as Deputy First Minister and looks set to trigger a fresh Assembly election – sums up everything which is wrong with Stormont: corruption, cronyism and sectarian sabre-rattling. While the DUP and Sinn Féin are slashing jobs, benefits and public services, hundreds of millions stand to go up in smoke through the ‘cash for ash’ scheme, overwhelmingly benefitting wealthy bosses.
The DUP’s cosy relationship with property developers and business-owners has been exposed by a series of scandals, from Red Sky to NAMA. But Sinn Féin and all the other main parties buy into the neo-liberal ideology that society must be run for profit. They all support cutting corporation tax, transferring hundreds of millions directly from public services into the coffers of big business. It is out of this political culture that the RHI affair was born.
The DUP and Sinn Féin have been happy to work together in implementing austerity. When details of the botched heating scheme initially emerged, Sinn Féin’s silence was deafening as they sought to avoid criticising their coalition partner. As the level of public anger became apparent, however, the reaction of both parties was – as always when faced with a united opposition – to inject sectarianism into the debate and attempt to distract from their failings.
Arlene Foster claimed that calls for her to stand down were driven by misogyny. Martin McGuinness suggested that his resignation was, in part, motivated by a desire to defend women’s rights. The DUP and Sinn Féin uphold oppressive abortion legislation which has seen women dragged through the courts. While the majority of people here are now pro-choice, none of the main parties support a woman’s fundamental right to control her own body.
A fresh election will be an opportunity for working class and young people to pass judgment on the Stormont establishment. Labour Alternative will be standing candidates in order to provide a cross-community, radical opposition to the parties of sectarianism, austerity and inequality. We call on trade unionists, community activists and fighters for LGBT+ and women’s rights to join us and mount the strongest challenge possible. It’s time for a new kind of politics.