FIRST Minister Arlene Foster is facing further pressure to quit after it was revealed she wrote to bankers encouraging support for the botched renewable heating scheme, suggesting payments would be guaranteed.
The revelations have led to fresh calls for the DUP leader to stand down amid investigations into the RHI controversy, which could cost Stormont up to £490m over the next 20 years.
In her letter at the outset of the scheme, then economy minister Ms Foster said the state-funded eco-subsidies offered applicants a “good return on investment”.
The letter said: “Tariffs are ‘grandfathered’, providing certainty for investors by setting a guaranteed support level for projects for their lifetime in a scheme, regardless of future reviews.
“The government support, on offer through the incentive schemes, is reliable, long term and offers a good return on investment.”
Mrs Foster has remained defiant amid the scandal and insisted the projected overspend can be halved.
However opposition politicians said there are questions that must be answered.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MLA said it was time for the First Minister to quit before she damaged the North’s political institutions any further.
Said the Foyle MLA: “We now know that Arlene Foster personally wrote to banks seeking investment in the RHI scheme offering ‘guaranteed support’ which would endure ‘regardless of future reviews’.
“In one sentence, the First Minister outlines the critical flaw in the whole project.
“Arlene Foster’s instinctive resistance to calls for her to stand aside pending a public inquiry is understandable but it is fundamentally misguided.
“This is about more than the career of one politician. The longer the First Minister stays, the more lasting damage she does to the institutions and to faith in government.”
Steve Aiken MLA of the UUP said: “Given that someone in the Executive was flying a kite last week about the closure of the scheme, perhaps Arlene Foster can explain how they’re going to do that given that she herself wrote to banks and lending institutions to assure them about the tariffs and the consistency of support over 20 years?
“It’s another fine mess for a scandal prone Executive, and Mrs Foster is right at the centre of this one.”