In December 2016, Foster faced criticism and controversy after a whistleblower revealed that the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme overspent by £400m, a failure which has been nicknamed the Cash for Ash scandal.
The scheme was originally set up by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI, now Department for the Economy) when she was Minister of the department and the scheme offered incentives to businesses if they installed renewable heating systems, such as burning wooden pellets.
She faced strong criticism after it was claimed that she personally campaigned to keep the scheme open, even when senior civil servants warned of the overspend and the Minister responsible, Jonathan Bell, planned on closing it. It remained open for an extra two weeks before it was finally closed.
It was also revealed that the Northern Ireland budget would lose £400m over the next 20 years as a result of the failure of the scheme. An independent audit investigated 300 sites and found there were issues at half of them, including 14 cases where there were suspicions of ‘serious fraud’.
When senior civil servants suggested the closure of the scheme in September 2015, the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (now the Executive Office) pressured the department to keep the scheme open, which is when there was a spike in applications. There were calls for Foster to resign as First Minister after the scandal broke.
So how has Arlene Foster responded to calls for her reignation? By lamely reaching for the feminist trump card, misogyny. From the (BBC) article by Gareth Gordon, the BBC News Northern Ireland political correspondent (obviously a misogynist himself):
Arlene Foster and the DUP have come out fighting in characteristic form. I think some people will find the misogyny line hard to take. Among those, as late as yesterday, calling for her to go, is the Alliance leader Naomi Long.
And it’s not just Sinn Féin who have been calling for her to go, with virtually every other party in the assembly [also doing so].
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